April 23, 2023 | Chad Glendenning
References: Mark 12:28-31Luke 10:25-37Matthew 9:9-13John 13:12-15Philippians 2:3-4James 2:26James 1:22
Topics: FaithNew TestamentLove

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Mark 12:28-31 - "One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which command is the most important of all?” [29] Jesus answered, “The most important is Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is one. [30] Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. [31] The second is, Love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”

Tonight I want to offer a gentle reminder. I don’t know about you, but I usually respond better to someone aiming to correct me... when they guide me to see the need for my correction. And then I make the choice to do the correcting... As opposed to being told what to do or how to do it. It can happen in person, or I could be watching a YouTube video, listening to a podcast, or reading a book. A problem gets highlighted and hints or potential solutions are given... But then it’s up to me to see how it might apply in my life, and what changes I might need to make.

That’s my aim tonight... I know I’m probably not going to bring something new and groundbreaking to your attention. Some of you have been Christians longer than I’ve even been alive. But I hope I can use some stories that Jesus told—or was a part of—as a gentle reminder, And as a way to see and compare how we’re all doing... As we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength... And as we follow Christ in our busy lives in a way that shows love to our neighbour.

I guess a good place to start would be defining: Who exactly is our neighbour? Jesus was asked this question, and that’s where we get the parable of the “Good Samaritan”. So let’s look at how he answered...

Luke 10:25-37 - "Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” [26] “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?” [27] He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,” and “your neighbour as yourself.” [28] “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live.” [29] But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” [30] Jesus took up the question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. [31] A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. [32] In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [33] But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. [34] He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. [35] The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ [36] “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” [37] “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”

Here, Jesus gives us an illustration of what it really means to love people.

Have you ever been on a trip where you came to a spot in the road with a “detour” sign? All of the sudden, you’re off the highway and way off- track, in the middle-of-nowhere, not even close to your destination.

Detours can be annoying, especially when we don’t see them coming. My dad and I were recently in Florida and we were driving back from a baseball game. I had GPS open on my phone and it changed the plan and told us to get off at the next exit. It looked like traffic was building ahead so it told us to get off and avoid it. We contemplated our decision briefly because it didn’t give us much time to react. And I pulled off the highway. Next thing we knew we were driving through residential streets on our way out to the middle of nowhere in central Florida. We were still following the GPS and our arrival time wasn’t getting worse... but nothing about our route was making sense logically. Eventually we could sense we were making our way back the highway to merge back on... But it turns out the GPS wanted us to get back on the highway exactly one exit after the one we just got off. In an attempt to keep us moving... we probably went 10km out of the way, only to eventually come 10km back and get back on the highway. The real problem was... when we got back on the highway we were still sitting in traffic. Doing this maneuver didn’t avoid all the traffic, just the beginning of it. So when it told us a few exits later to get off I checked where it was sending us this time, and we elected to roll through traffic this time and avoid the tour of the country-side.

It can be easy to look at a detour as a bad thing... but God actually calls us to take some detours in our lives. Actually... if you think about it God kinda made a detour for me and you? He went out of His way to love you. That’s essentially what a detour is, right? Going out of your way... Jesus is showing us here that love goes out of the way... in service of others.

The Samaritan went out of his way to save the Jewish man. The priest didn’t get off the highway... He changed lanes and went right by him. The Levite didn’t get off the highway... He always changed lanes and left the Jewish man on the side of the road. But the Samaritan did stop. He went out of his way. He was going somewhere... He had something else to do... But still, he did what was necessary to save the man.

Remember we were looking at this story as a way to learn who our neighbour is. Historically, Samaritans and Jews did not associate. And that’s putting it lightly... Samaritans were the people group who lived in the northern region above Judea.From Samaria to Jerusalem it’s only 52km... Thats like driving from here to Barrie. They both would say they love and serve the one true God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So why do they disagree... why don’t they get along? Well Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and they exiled all the Samaritans and fill it with Babylonian and Mesopotamian people. Down south Judah they watched this all happening, probably counting the days until they were next. But it wasn’t until about a century later when Babylon had overpowered Assyria that the Babylonians came in and Jerusalem was exiled as well. Years later when they were liberated, the people who still cared about Jerusalem went back home. And this is where we get to the reason why they don’t get along... That is why is there all this tension between the Jews from Jerusalem, and the “Samaritans”. It’s all because the “Samaritans” weren’t necessarily Israelites anymore... Maybe there were some living there... but they were mixed in with all the lower class people that Babylon left behind. The reasons they didn’t get along was because of political and religious issues... Basically they didn’t get along because even though they were close in distance... They did things differently. Thats it. It’s because the way they thought about things, was different.

But true love will cross any barrier to love someone else. It was literally the priest’s and the Levite’s job to stop and help the man. They would have studied God’s Word and known about the “love of God"... But there’s a difference in knowing about God’s love and operating in it. The Samaritan was the least likely person to save the man... But he knew something... Love goes out of the way to serve others. This is true love! This is the way love operates.

Let’s break this down then... Your neighbour ISN’T someone who looks like you... Your neighbour ISN’T someone who agrees with you politically... Your neighbour ISN’T someone who follows the same religion as you... Your neighbour COULD be someone who makes you feel uncomfortable... Loving you neighbour will probably inconvenience you... Loving your neighbour might use up the little bit of time you have... The love of God crosses all barriers and goes out of the way for anyone. God’s love went out of the way for us... And now we are called to go out of the way for others. Sometimes all it takes for people to come into relationship with God... Is one person going out of the way to show God’s love for them.

Matthew 9:9-13 - "As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed him.
[10] While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and his disciples. [11] When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [12] Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. [13] Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus understood something the religious leaders didn’t. The Kingdom of God operates differently than the way we expect it would. It loves people who seem unloveable... And it calls people who seem beyond hope. Jesus knew that the love of God was more powerful than any mistake a human being could ever make. Even the people that everyone else thought were the most lost and the biggest sinners could be redeemed. I hope we all believe that is true. No one has sinned too much... No sin is too bad...

I’m glad you’re all here tonight, there is great value in us gathering together like this. I’m preaching to the choir here... but Christianity isn’t a solo sport... and we NEED to be meeting together. BUT The North American Church is in trouble... because I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing a vile and toxic trend. I think we’re losing sight of the fact that Jesus came and died for more than just us. I’m sure if I went looking for it, I could find details on how much time and resources are spent by predominantly “North American churches” on creating awe inspiring church services each week. But I can’t stomach that truth if I were to find it. It would make me sick to see the truth in front of my eyes like that. Because it would cause me to wonder how much is being done to reach OUTSIDE of the church. “It is not those who are well who need a doctor... but those who are sick” We’re funding the most impressive, best skilled doctors. But you can only be a patient of theirs if you’re healthy!?!? I get it... it makes sense that the church would raise money and fund its various ministries. BUT it’s love, care and support can’t stop at the brick walls that hold the roof up.

The Kingdom of God operates differently than the way we expect it would. It loves people who seem unloveable... And it calls people who seem beyond hope. Even the people that everyone else thinks are the most lost and the biggest sinners can be redeemed. We can’t just close our eyes and pretend they don’t exist...

I think another reason we fail to love our neighbour is because we get in the way. We allow our pride to get in the middle of our decision making. “I can’t do that... what will people think of me” Look at what Jesus has to say about that.

John 13:12-15 - "When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? [13] You call me Teacher and Lord — and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. [14] So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. [15] For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you."

Jesus perfectly shows us through this story that no matter who we are. We are always called to walk in humility and be serving others. He is literally God in human flesh... He’s the Saviour of the world... And still He washed His disciples’ feet. 

You think feet are gross now? At least we have closed toe shoes and socks. And if our feet do get dirty... we have soap and running water to easily clean them. Back in those days, feet were even more gross than they are now! Everyone wore sandals and their feet were exposed to the elements. Washing someone else’s feet was one of the lowest tasks there was. And Jesus—God in human flesh... Saviour of the world—did it for all of His disciples. 

If we’re honest, it can be really difficult to be humble. It’s important to remember, if we really want to live how God has called us to... And make a difference in our world... We have to keep humility and service at the forefront. I love my neighbour by serving in humility. 

Philippians 2:3-4 - "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. [4] Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others."

Humility looks after others’ interests before your own. It values other people, even before it values you. This is how Jesus loved us... He looked after our interests above His. He chose to die on the cross... That wasn’t in His interest... it was in ours! Putting others first gives us an opportunity to show God’s love to the world. When we love others like that, they see Jesus in us. Stay humble and choose to serve others. 

I’m going to wrap up quickly with this last idea... We’ve all been around someone who says one thing... but often does something else, right? It can be hard to trust these people! There’s a word for this: Hypocrite. Nobody wants to be a hypocrite. I think we can all agree, it’s a good thing to be a person of your word. Its important, not just socially, but because the Bible tells us that if our actions don’t back up our faith... That we don’t actually have faith at all. That sounds intense, but it’s true! If we say one thing... but live another way, then we don’t actually believe what we say that we do. 

James 2:26 - "For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."

Faith without works is dead. Actions that support our beliefs... Are an essential part of our faith. When we truly take God at His Word... We will put our faith into action and see our world change for the better. We show love to our neighbour by putting our faith into action. And scripture tells us exactly how to put this into practice in our lives.

Do God’s Word! Don’t just listen to someone telling you about it!

James 1:22 - "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

We are called to live with an active faith... A faith that does something! It’s not just what we believe... It’s how we live! True faith is always accompanied by action. Be a doer of God’s Word — put your faith in action!

I hope tonight or over the next week, you can’t forget about the story of the Good Samaritan. And how in a similar way Jesus went out of the way to show His love for you. I want to challenge you: Choose to love others in the same way God loves you. How you can go out of your way in humility to serve your friends, family, and city. Maybe you feel like when it comes to loving your neighbour...You’ve been someone who says one thing... But lives a different way... Or maybe you feel like you’ve gotten in your own way when it comes to loving your neighbour...No matter how many mistakes you’ve made, God loves you and has a plan for your life. So choose to put your faith in action tonight.