Knowing the Right Answer Isn’t Enough
Who is NOT interested in eternal life? Anyone?
All of us are, or we wouldn’t be here
How would you answer the legal expert? Jesus said, “You tell me.”
The expert replied by repeating the Great Commandment; THE commandment
Jesus’ reply to the legal expert: “Good answer!”
Jesus compliments the expert, but doesn’t leave well enough alone!
DO THIS & you will live.
Knowing the right answer, knowing how to answer the question is not enough
Jesus then gives a living, breathing example of how to do this, how to live the right answer
To please God, to truly follow Jesus, we must:
Love God with all our heart, being, strength & mind
Our passion, prayer, muscle & intellect
AND love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves
I will assume that each of us loves ourself
A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagon of wheat on the road. The farmer who lived next door came to investigate. “Forget your troubles for a while & come have dinner with me. Then I’ll help you right the wagon & reload it.”
“That’s very nice of you,” the boy said, “but I don’t think my Dad would like me to.” “Aw, come on, son!” the farmer insisted. “Well, okay,” the boy said, “but Dad won’t like it.”
After a fine meal, the boy thanked his host. “I feel a lot better now, but I know Dad’s going to be real upset.” “Don’t be silly,” the neighbor said. “By the way, where is your Dad?” “Under the wagon,” the boy said.
Judith Brain, of MA, tells of meeting an unexpected neighbor. She writes, my son is a jazz musician. My husband & I went to hear his band one night, at a club in Roxbury. It was a warm, friendly, interracial nightclub.
At the table next to ours a big friendly African American man attended to a tiny, twisted human being in a wheelchair. A paralyzed man with a puppet’s body & large, misshapen head sat in the chair, sipping his beer through a straw & watching the musicians intently. He seemed alert, but only his eyes moved so it was hard to tell how much he really took in.
His friend, however, captured our attention. He seemed to notice every nuance of the poor, deformed man. He leaned in close to hear him speak in the noisy club & his entire manner proclaimed love.
I thought to myself how wonderful this scene was. The club that embraced a broken person. I felt part of that embrace. I, too, was reaching out in some way with a friendly smile. “I accept you,” I was saying.
The room was smoky & my contact lenses started giving me trouble. I popped them out, sloshed them in my water glass, & put them back in. Just then, the tall man came over to our table & gave me a bottle of eye drops. “Here, you need these.”
“Thank you, I’m glad you noticed.” “No, my friend did,” pointing to the man in the wheelchair. And on that crooked face was a big grin.
The man in the wheelchair took pity on me. I came out of my pharisaical fog. “I accept you?” What presumption! I thought I was whole & he was not. I thought I was the giver & he the receiver, the last person in the world who could help me. But the tables were turned. That twisted man in the nightclub became my neighbor.
A SS teacher was telling his class the story of the Good Samaritan, describing how he was beaten, robbed, & left for dead. He retold the story in vivid detail so his students could picture the scene. Then he asked the class, “If you saw a person lying on the roadside wounded & bleeding, what would you do?”
One little girl broke the silence, “I think I’d throw up!”
We might not throw up, but far too often we give up. Our 21st century culture stresses anonymity over community, caution over compassion, me-ism over other-ism, & comfort over commitment. But truly being a neighbor means crossing social lines, & cultural divides. It might mean figuring out who our neighbor is by simply sharing 15 minutes across the hedge, or lending a hand to a stranger, or talking at the grocery store to the face you see every day but never acknowledge, or making eye contact on the sidewalk or in the hallway. It might even mean stopping to save a life!
Imagine what can happen in our church & in our community if we learn to know our neighbor’s faces & lives, & begin to connect like Samaritans who take the time to help. Imagine what can happen in our world if we start to live-out this classic story about somebody from outside the neighborhood, from the wrong neighborhood, who willingly stops & gives assistance.
Imagine what it will be like if we begin to behave like neighbors. That is what Jesus is talking about, really. That is what he is telling us to do.
Although we often say we are willing to help – like good Christians should – I know that I rarely stop & do anything. (I was given 2 opportunities last Sunday.) Although we often see the need, far too often we don’t make the effort to get off our donkeys, lift up fallen people, & escort them to safety.
Friends, Jesus word for us today is that knowing the right answer – loving God & loving others – is not enough.
Pleasing God & following Jesus is found in the doing.
Our walk really is more important than our talk.
Actions truly speak louder than words.
Jesus said it best: Go & do likewise.