Go And Do Likewise

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” [Luke 10:36-37]

This discussion is based on Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan.

We are not defined by our experiences. My story’s nothing special; everyone has a unique, compelling personal story. I’m not an injury or a disability, nor am I the mistakes I’ve made along the way. In the parable, the man wasn’t less precious or worthy because of his misfortune.

We all know individuals with similar experiences and backgrounds but very different lives. We’re defined in the end by how we deal with the events we encounter. Some folks rise above incredible adversity, others shrink in the face of the smallest obstacles. Blessings and struggles are present on every road, but we determine the nature of the journey through our reactions and responses.

To me, experiences seem like context or background for the real story. They’re important, and we can certainly learn from them. But a story centered only on “what happened” can’t have much depth because “what happened” misses the most important components of the story.

We are defined by relationships. We’re made in God’s image, and He is about relationships. We are designed for authentic intimacy with God, with other people, and with ourselves.

I firmly believe I owe my eventual recovery to people who reflected God’s grace and mercy when I didn’t want to see them. They loved when it wasn’t easy, despite my stubborn resistance. Those folks were “Jesus with skin on” and they refused to allow fear to keep them from doing what had already been done for them.

The church exists to serve people. Church isn’t intended as an exclusive club reserved for a bit better class of sinner. It’s a hospital, not a hall of fame.

That means church can’t be just for folks who look, act, dress, and behave like us. Church should be uncomfortable at times because it reaches out and welcomes people who don’t fit in our comfort zone.

My life didn’t change because of an injury or due to any heroic personal decisions. It changed because people welcomed me and loved me when I was a mess, when I didn’t belong.

Of course, they were as messed-up as I was. I brought something they needed, though I didn’t see it at the time. As my friend Al is fond of saying, “Nobody’s here by accident.”

Jesus often shows up in unexpected clothing. During times of struggle I often wonder why God doesn’t step up, but that’s because I expect Him to speak from a burning bush.

Jesus was with me, speaking to me, throughout a horrible ordeal. I didn’t recognize Him because He wore a nurse’s scrubs, a therapist’s lab coat, or a college student’s blue jeans. He spoke to me and cared for me through ordinary, imperfect people.

Jesus’ message is actually pretty simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or convenient, but He tells us pretty clearly how to respond to His call. He ended the parable with a clear command: “Go and do likewise.”

We make it complicated. His simple message of unconditional love doesn’t fit our limited notions of how the world ought to work. It’s uncomfortable, it requires sacrifice. So we impose our own rules and conditions and turn His message into a tangle of religious rules. We endlessly debate the rules instead of following Jesus.

We lament that God won’t tell us what He wants. We pray for guidance and direction. We sing songs about the mystery of His purposes. That’s all good, but sometimes I wonder if it’s an elaborate religious smokescreen.

Jesus told the parable of The Good Samaritan in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

At the end, He asked a question of His own: which of the characters was a neighbor to the man in need? The reply was, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Then Jesus told Him, “Go and do likewise.”

Perhaps if we did the truth we know, we’d learn the truth we need to know.

“Knowing about” doesn’t do much good. I thought I knew Jesus, but I really just knew about Him. I knew the facts, the story, the events, but those were useless when the storm arrived. I needed to meet Him, encounter Him in an intimate, transparent relationship.

It’s the same with grace. We all know about grace, but that’s like reading a book about kids and thinking you know how to be a parent. Grace becomes real when it’s reflected to those who need it (that’s you and me and everyone else).

Our words and knowledge don’t change lives. God’s grace and truth changes lives, and He uses ordinary people to demonstrate His love. And that brings me to a final observation …

God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect work. Ever wonder why God works through flawed human beings? It’s because they’re the only kind.

I’ve learned not to idealize people. Christians can do God’s work through the Spirit. Pastors have a special call on their lives. Teachers, preachers, writers—they all have something to contribute. Nobody’s here by accident.

But even the best of us are broken. We all have blind spots and biases. We all make mistakes and then rationalize or blame. We all judge and allow fear to color our vision. We all fail to do what’s right, even when we know it.

I don’t deserve any of the blessings I’ve received. I’m here for one simple reason: Jesus loves me.

Now I want to respond to His simple direction: “Go and do likewise.”

What’s your take on events, people, and what shapes your journey?

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?”

But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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