by Pr Margaret Loy
“Happy New Year! Blessed New Year!”
As we welcome 2016, what do we look forward to? What are our goals for the year? We often list down a list of things to accomplish or to do. How about we consider a question which is more related to our eternal destiny?
In Luke 10, an expert of the law asked Jesus how to obtain eternal life. Jesus asked him what the law said instead. The expert of the law answered confidently “To love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and might, and to love your neighbour as yourself”. Scripture tells us that the expert of the law then tried to justify himself and asked Jesus the next question, “And who is my neighbor”?
Jesus then told the story of the good Samaritan who risked his life, going out of his way to help an unidentified injured man, personally tending to his wounds, bringing him to a lodging house, and paying for his needs until the man gets well. As the injured man was stripped of his clothes by the robbers, the Samaritan man would not have been able to tell his ethnicity or religion.
The Samaritans were despised by the Jews in those days because of their mixed racial background and their different doctrines of worship. Jesus made the Samaritan a hero in the story to the surprise of the expert of the law. Jesus then asked the question, “Who is a neighbour to the injured man?” “The one who had mercy on the man”, replied the expert of the law.
Jesus’ answer was to the point, “Go and do likewise”. It was not “think” or “say” or “share” or “teach” likewise. It was “go and do likewise”. Jesus urged the expert of the law to emulate the Samaritan’s actions.
Jesus’ focus was not on “who is qualified to be a subject of my compassion”, but rather “how I can become a person who truly exercises compassion toward others”. We all have a tendency to make excuses for not helping others, and in so doing excuse ourselves. Instead Jesus pointed out the need for us to begin with ourselves and work on becoming a compassionate person regardless of the “otherness” or otherwise of somebody else.
Jesus went further and taught his disciples to even love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus reminded us that the source of our love is Christ, and that our love for Christ is also seen in our love for our fellow human beings and brothers and sisters in Christ:
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:19-21
As we greet each other in this New Year, may we all continue to show forth Christ’s love and compassion to those who are poor and hurting, irrespective to their background, ethnicity and religion. It is then that we’d truly be children of God, reflecting His love and compassion to those around us.
In our world where people love selectively, let us continue to be different, and love others with Christ’s love. The Samaritan in Jesus’s story put aside his convenience, his agenda, and cared for the injured man who was robbed, spending time, money and effort in doing so, till the man was well.
Today, as we determine to show God’s love, let us also spend time to journey with others, investing part of ourselves sacrificially without expecting anything in return. Jesus was incarnational in the giving of himself, and laid down his life for us. It is costly grace and forgiveness. As we begin the year, may we grow in Christ-likeness, in God’s grace of generosity and love in our daily life.
King David refused to offer something to God which cost him nothing (2 Sam 24:10-24). Abraham was willing to even give God his only son, Isaac because He feared God (Gen 22:12). As we start the new year, may we be wholehearted in our love for God and for each other. May we honour God with our heart, our lips and our actions always.
Loving our neighbor is honoring God. It demands costly grace too. May we do so in God’s strength and power. END
Pr Margaret Loy is Director of Community Excel Services.