Acting Our Faith (Luke 10:25-37)

  • I don’t have to remind you that our world is a world of hurt
  • thirty-five thousand children die every day of starvation and diseases caused by malnutrition
  • and there’s 1 billion 400 million people who just live at the subsistence level with regard to food, clothing and shelter
  • there’s 100 million street children under the age of 15 in our large cities around the world
  • and the heartbreaking statistics go on and on
  • tragically, many followers of Christ are somewhat hardened to the suffering in this world
  • there are many reasons
  • there is this fallacy that God is concerned only with the soul, and that to minister to someone’s body is, frankly, a waste of time
  • there’s also a mistaken belief that the world has to get worse before the Lord can come, so anyone who tries to make the world a better place is actually delaying the return of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • ridiculous, isn’t it?
  • “Do you realize,” a student asked a lecturer on this subject, “if we start feeding hungry people, things won’t get worse, and if things don’t get worse, Jesus won’t come?”
  • this almost makes God into a cosmic absentee landlord, distantly ignoring this earth until it’s so bad, that he returns and sets things right
  • and it’s a bad view
  • there’s another reason why Christ followers are hardened to social justice
  • there was a time, and maybe there still is, when so-called Christians abandoned the spiritual essence of the Scripture and became totally focused on promoting justice in the world
  • they went too far the other way, and in trying to redeem people’s suffering around the world, completely ignored the soul
  • not to mention other controversial actions such as arming rebels to overthrow oppressive governments
  • many churches, such as the one in which I was raised, reacted by condemning almost any sort of social action
  • our job, they said, was to save the soul
  • let someone else worry about their bodies, their housing, their food
  • do you ever watch television and see an ad from a humanitarian agency?
  • sometimes I feel like crying out, “I can’t handle more suffering! I can’t take another picture of a starving soul!”
  • we’re overloaded with images of the suffering that is so present in this world
  • the end result is, as one author writes, that Christians are like those living in a castle
  • who occasionally venture into enemy territory to make evangelistic raids
  • but most of the time retreat to our fortress over the moat, raise the drawbridge, and enjoy the splendid fellowship of Christian brother and sister, but do nothing to redeem this earth
  • my premise this morning is simple
  • in other words, if you love God, it’s going to show in how you treat others who are suffering or in need
  • no compassion? Then no faith!
  • but if you and I have a genuine love for God and a faith, it is going to show in how we treat the poor and oppressed
  • please open your Bibles this morning to Luke 10
  • 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
  • 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
  • 27 He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
  • 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
  • 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
  • 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
  • 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
  • 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
  • 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
  • 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
  • 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
  • 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
  • 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
  • Jesus told his most memorable parable in a way that pushes this point home
  • a Jewish traveler who’s traveling inside Jewish territory and he gets robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside of a well traveled road
  • but as bad as all that is, good news is coming down the road
  • there’s a religious leader just a half-mile away, and behind him is a staff member of a local place of worship
  • so help is on the way for this beaten up traveler, right?
  • I mean, if you could arrange the traffic that you would want to come down this road, given this man’s condition, you’d arrange it just like this: two religious leaders on the road, on the way, about ready to come across this man
  • but as Jesus tells the story, there’s a twist in the plot, because the religious leader sees the beaten up countryman, and for whatever reason, we don’t know for sure, he doesn’t even break stride
  • yeah, he veers five degrees to pass on the far shoulder of the road, but he doesn’t even break stride.
  • no reason to panic, you know, this other guy’s coming too, and he’s a religious leader
  • he does the same thing-makes the five degree adjustment and doesn’t break stride, and he passes as well
  • well, now, all bets are off, right?
  • and then Jesus says there’s one more guy approaching, but in horse racing parlance, he is a long shot
  • he’s just a business guy, regular guy, business guy on his way to a meeting that he cannot miss
  • and the second wrinkle in this thing is he’s from an ethnic group that hates Jews and that Jews hate.
  • so given what the first two leaders did with respect to this wounded countryman, what are the odds that this business guy is going to stop and do anything for this Jewish wounded man?
  • Jesus completes this story by saying that this Samaritan man felt something in his heart
  • he felt compassion in his heart
  • then he came to some conclusions in his head, and then he did some things with his hands
  • you know the story.
  • he felt compassion, so he stopped and he bound up the wounds
  • he loaded him into his Lexus or Taurus, or whatever the equivalent would be, drove him to the emergency room, then checked him into a hotel and told the guy at the hotel, “Here’s my American Express. I’ll be back after my business meeting.”
  • but he said these words, “You take care of him, whatever it takes. It’s on me.”
  • Then Jesus turned to his listeners and he said, “I want all of you to be more like this guy. He’s the model. He’s the one I want you to emulate. Any questions? I want you to have hearts that work like his heart worked in that situation. I want you to have heads or minds that work like his mind worked that day. I want you to have hands that know how to get dirty and bloody from time-to-time in the bandaging up of wounded, hurting folks. What part of this challenge did I not make clear? Be like this guy.”
  • two observations about this passage
  • I’m trying to figure out how the first two religious leaders in Jesus’ famous parable, how could they see such an obvious need and have such cold hearts and such cloudy minds?
  • how could they keep their hands in their pockets?
  • and then, how could a long shot business guy, a Samaritan, be so responsive?
  • you know, it is quite possible to be very religious and yet devoid of even normal levels of human compassion
  • it’s very possible for some people to “do” religion for reasons that have very little to do with being transformed and motivated by the love of Jesus Christ
  • some people “do” religion for self-righteous reasons. It’s just a self-improvement plan-no compassion or grace associated with it
  • some people “do” religion for power and control reasons
  • it makes them feel big and strong
  • some people “do” it for guilt and shame reasons.
  • there are a lot of reasons why people “do” religion
  • but Jesus is simply pulling back the veil on this nasty little secret that goes virtually undiscussed in religious circles
  • the secret is that much that goes on in the name of Jesus Christ that day and these days has very little to do with Him at all
  • much that goes on in churches around the world even today has very little to do with being moved and personally melted by the tender love and forgiving grace of Jesus Christ
  • the point that Jesus is really making is that for a human heart to be deeply touched by human suffering of some kind, it must first be opened up and filled up by the love of Jesus Christ
  • it’s a deeply personal and necessary transforming experience that must happen
  • which is why the Bible says in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.”
  • we can touch the lives of people who are suffering because in a way our sin suffering lives have been touched by Jesus Christ first
  • historically, believers have done much in social action
  • Christ followers were active in establishing hospitals and health care institutions
  • Christians developed our current educational system in which kids everywhere spend the first years of their life being educated instead of working
  • Christians such as Wilberforce were instrumental in abolishing slavery
  • the facts are well documented
  • but Christians have also failed miserably
  • exhibit number one: the racism that churches implicitly supported, when they could have been the first and most vocal proponents of abolishing segregation and racism
  • still they call 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings the most segregated hour in North America
  • Christians should be at the forefront of social action, but they often aren’t
  • but there’s another observation I’d like to make
  • caring isn’t a state of mind, it is an action
  • a homeless woman once approached a country vicar for help
  • because he was busy and helpless, he turned her away and offered to pray for her
  • the homeless woman later wrote this poem:
I was hungry,
and you formed a humanities group to discuss my hunger.
I was imprisoned,
and you crept off quietly to my chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick,
and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless,
and you preached to me the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely,
and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God
but I am still very hungry – and lonely – and cold.
  • the apostle James wrote:
  • (James 2:14) What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
  • (James 2:15) Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
  • (James 2:16) If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
  • (James 2:17) In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
  • last week a spiritual giant died
  • his name was Henri Nouwen
  • he was one of the brilliant theological minds of our generation, a tenured professor at Yale
  • but listen to what he said at the height of his success
  • “I felt I needed something else because my spiritual life was not deep. I’m just a fragile person, and I knew that I wasn’t rooted deeply enough in Christ. I wanted something more”
  • so this brilliant theological mind closed shop and moved to a small community in Richmond Hill, Ontario, and became a pastor to a group of mentally disabled kids
  • many people thought he was throwing his life away, caring for the most basic needs such as changing diapers of disabled kids, but Nouwen knew where he belonged
  • and he staid there until he died of a heart attack last weekend at age 65
  • (Matthew 25:40) “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
  • how can you get involved?
  • I challenge you at an individual level – what is there that you can do to serve those in need?
  • is there anyone who could see themselves visiting those in prisons?
  • what about visiting the elderly in nursing homes, who seldom have any visitors?
  • what about giving some money to a charity?
  • becoming a volunteer with an organization like TeleCare Etobicoke, or a board member with the Stonegate Community Ministry?
  • what about becoming a Big Brother or a Big Sister?
  • there’s lots we can do
  • on a bigger scale, what can we do as a church?
  • what can we do to correct more systemic problems in society?
  • you know that we can give charity, but unless we solve the underlying problems, it won’t do much good
  • what can we do to solve the systemic problems?
  • Mother Teresa ever since 1948, when she started caring for the poorest of the poor in a place that Kipling called, “The Big Calcutta Stink.”
  • she started out by picking up one dying woman off the streets, where she had been half eaten by rats and ants, and took her to a hospital and refused to budge until somebody treated her
  • then she talked the city in giving her space in a former Hindu temple where she could take the destitute and the dying
  • since then, tens of thousands have been rescued off the streets. She has started facilities for lepers and orphans and AIDS victims, and they’ve spread around the globe, from Kenya to Ethiopia to Peru to Mexico to New York City.
  • this morning I’d like to pray part of a prayer that Mother Teresa prays each morning with her coworkers:
  • “Lord, make me a channel of Your peace, that where there is hatred, I may bring love; that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord, I may bring harmony; that where there is error, I may bring truth; that where there is doubt, I may bring faith; that where there is despair, I may bring hope; that where there are shadows, I may bring light; that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada