Dear Church, we’ve gotten some things confused along the way. I am as guilty as you.
Here’s the deal. The government is not our church. It never was. But we seem to want it to be.
Luke 10 tells us an “expert of the Law” stood up and asked Jesus “What can I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus says essentially, “Love God fully, then love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” When the expert then asks, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of a non-descript man who has been beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two guys saw him, two big shot guys: a priest and a Levite. And they closed their eyes to his pain, passing him on the other side of the road. One guy, a Samaritan took pity, bandaged his wounds, transported him to a hotel, and then provided for him. FYI, a Samaritan is your classically discriminated against character. This was no small fact when communicating with the 1st century elite. The guy everyone hated and everyone avoided, was the hero. He wasn’t famous, he wasn’t the priest, he was just a lowly Samaritan.
Then Jesus says something that’s easy to miss, “Which of these men was a good neighbor?”
Remember the expert asked him “who is my neighbor?”
Notice Jesus’ answer addresses the expert’s heart and now it addresses my heart…what kind of neighbor am I?
What matters in the story is twofold: there was someone in need and then someone was a good neighbor. It doesn’t matter who our neighbor is; Jesus doesn’t do anything to qualify what kind of person was robbed and beaten. He doesn’t tell us what color he was, what his socioeconomic status was, he told us where he was traveling from and to where, but not much else.
My neighbor might be a Syrian refugee. My neighbor might be a rich guy from suburbia. My neighbor might be a widow. My neighbor might be a drug addict. And no matter what, Jesus tells me to be a good neighbor. He tells me not to close my eyes. He asks me to bandage wounds and provide help when it’s needed. He didn’t suggest that someone go find a government official to help the guy who was beaten and robbed. He told me to do it.
I’m in a weird busy stage with a slew of small children right now. Before I had all of them, I was IN my community DOING. Now I can easily feel like I’m OUT of my community and WATCHING.
But sometimes we can complicate things needlessly, “I can’t volunteer at the homeless shelter right now, I’m useless!” and we don’t do anything…
There are so many needs. Needs enough for all of us to meet. There are so many hearts. There are so many ways to serve if we open our eyes.
- Be a prayer warrior. Ask God to lead you to the needy in spirit and body and mind.
- Make an extra portion of the meal you are already making your family once a month, take the other portion to a family in crisis or in transition (new baby, move, new job, etc).
- Donate your gently used stuff (clothing, baby gear, dishes) instead of selling them or hoarding them.
- Set aside 10% of your income for your local church or charity. (For all their riches, California and Texas are among the lowest states in charitable giving….)
- Buy a meal for someone hungry.
- Keep $5 Starbucks cards on your person, instead of rolling your eyes at the screaming toddler at Target, give his mama a cup of happy.
- Say something kind to a stranger.
- Listen before you talk or judge.
- Contact the charities in your city and see what they NEED (opposed to what you think they need or what you want to donate) and then donate it, as your ability permits: time, money, resources, prayer.
Many of us jump to rage on social media before we’ve done anything to BE a good neighbor. Many of us rely on our government to create laws before we’ve fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and bandaged the gaping wounds in the people around us. We look to others to do the things we were always supposed to do.
I have a friend. We don’t agree on everything or all of the same causes, but she is a doer. She does things. She loves people well. She gets her hands dirty.
Big government CANNOT be a good neighbor. It can only facilitate organizational structure in our country. We need government. I’m not knocking it and I’m not saying we don’t need to be wise in how we vote and then also how we communicate with our Senators and Congressmen. Certainly, we need to be involved. But in the end, the government cannot reach a human heart. It cannot listen and engage with the human struggle. It cannot deliver a warm meal when it’s needed or a gently used carseat for a scared young mother in crisis. It cannot make sure that a refugee family fleeing unspeakable atrocities has what they need to start a new life.
Only we can do that, as individuals in our churches and communities.
It’s easy to stay in our bubbles (I know, I’m guilty). It’s also easy to get really angry because of or on social media (guilty again).
My brother in law says, “Don’t talk about it, be about it.”
What would America look like if that was our battle cry?