Sep 212017

The Ten Lepers

“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance” (Luke 17:11-12)

When Jesus reached the village, ten lepers approached Him, but at a distance. They had heard of Jesus, of His Gospel and miracles, which had been proclaimed and witnessed throughout Galilee prior to His arrival at their village. Hearing this good news kindled an untested and unexperienced faith in the lepers which brought them to Jesus.

“and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ ” (Luke 17:13)

The lepers were outcasts, considered unclean under the Law, who had no works or merit of any kind to present to Jesus. They knew they were sinners. They had nothing to offer Jesus other than their humble prayer of faith: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” However, unlike works and merit, faith is a receptacle into which Jesus can pour out His service and grace: “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28) Faith brought the lepers to Jesus, stood them up and lifted their voices with boldness and eagerness.

“When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ ” (Luke 7.14a)

But Jesus disappoints human reason, causing affliction and suffering, as faith is tested, exercised and strengthened. Reason asks: “Why are you sending us to the priests? We have already shown ourselves to them and received our sentence: ‘You are unclean.’ Why have you ignored our request? Is He unable or disinterested? Are the reports we have heard about Him false? Does He despise us?” Since Jesus did not answer Reason’s prayer, instead of attempting the painful journey on foot, probably for nothing, Reason would remain in place, outside the camp, in torn clothes, with unkempt hair, warning off passersby, crying: “Unclean, unclean.” (Lev 13:45-46) Reason will not receive or endure Jesus.

Faith, on the other hand, receives Jesus entirely differently: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1) Faith holds fast to what it does not see, feel or experience, either in body or soul. As a firm trust in Jesus and His Word, Faith commits itself to and relies entirely upon His goodness and without any doubt expects to receive grace from His goodness. Thus grace will certainly be received, and the feeling and experience of it will come unsought and unsolicited, in and through such faith and hope. Therefore, in faith that Jesus would not forsake them, the lepers obeyed Jesus’ command: “Go….”

“And as they went they were cleansed.” (Luke 7:14b)

The lepers received two cleansings from Jesus. The first cleansing was in the eyes of God, which the lepers received immediately when Jesus saw their faith. As Isaiah prophesied: Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” (Isa 65:24) We also read vividly of this in Jesus’ healing of the paralytic: “but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ ” (Luke 5:19-20) Before we can even ask, Jesus without hesitation bestows grace to faith in Him.

It is as though Jesus were to say: “Take what you have come for and ‘Go.’ Show your purity to the priests. As I consider you, and as you believe, so you shall be.” When God appears to be farthest away he is nearest. But so that His grace could afterwards be felt and experienced by the men, Jesus also healed their leprosy.

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’ ” (Luke 17:15-19)

If the story had ended at verse 14, we would have had a very happy ending indeed. Because the lepers, having been cured of their leprosy, would now be welcomed back into their communities and homes, could make a living alongside other men, and could worship God in the temple. But what about that Jesus fellow? What will they tell their priests, families, and potential employers when asked about their healings? These men again suffer affliction on account of Jesus.

If these men confess Christ, they will be rejected by the priests and cast out of the synagogue, ostracized by family and community, and could very well place their lives in jeopardy. From a worldly perspective, they have come so far and have gotten so close to a normal life that they can almost taste it. Will they risk throwing it all away by confessing that they were healed by Jesus, the Christ of God?

The devil afflicts a follower of Jesus both from outside the church and from the inside. Outside the church, the world, for example, may exact financial suffering on a Christian who will not conform to the pattern of the world and its idols. However, even more dangerous than those afflictions, are the ones which come from within the church. This happens when a priest or pastor, twisting the words of God, attempts to deprive us of Jesus and His gifts, such as when they say: “His words do not mean what they say;” “His words do not do what they say;” or “His words no longer apply today.” Wherever the Church is present, the devil is busy attacking our faith in the name of God.

“And the [seeds of the Gospel] on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:13-15)

Sadly, nine of the ten lepers fell away. Their faith had no root to endure testing, or their faith was choked by the allure of the pleasures of life which were now available to them. But one of the ten held Christ’s Word fast in an honest and good heart. From his heart he yielded his fruit: the sacrifice of praise to Christ His Savior of both his body and soul; and his public confession that God healed him. The man received exactly what he came to Jesus for: mercy! To this Jesus responded: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Praise be to God that Jesus does all things well for us who trust in Him and His Word. Amen.

“[T]hese are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) Amen.

Sep 202017

As Christians, we carry a wonderful blessing and a frightful concernment in that we represent God to the world.  Most specifically in the extent that the name of Christ is contained within the very name we take – that of Christian.  It is both a magnificent gift and a harrowing reality that we portray the Maker and Ruler of the universe and Savior of our souls to rest of living humanity.  Sometimes God’s presence and representation of His attributes shine brightly through us.  Other times we royally screw up and it is embarrassing to even remotely connect God to the things we have said and done.

Throughout the history of this blog, plenty of Christians, especially pastors and leaders, have been called out for bad behavior.  Behavior that is sometimes committed in secret and other times boldly in front of an audience, but in the end is a disgraceful representation of Christ by those who are more visible and have a higher level of responsibility due to their position.  Sometimes I’m glad that I’m a nobody and so my dirty laundry has a lesser reach in besmirching the name of Christ.

Beyond our behavior, however, we also portray God by the words and descriptions we use to tell others about who He is and what He does.  When speaking of or about God, I want to portray Him as accurately and faithfully as I can.  Although I am sure I often fail in giving a fully correct depiction of God, my desire is to do my best in any given circumstance to properly represent God.  Since I am not a trained theologian I at times will be circumspect in what I say for fear of misrepresenting God due to my own dearth of knowledge.  Others are better equipped to speak in meticulous detail.

Additionally, I am usually pretty cautious in making statements like “God told me this” or “God is doing this”.  I fully believe that God speaks to us in ways that aren’t necessarily audible or documentable, but in varying intimate ways He communicates to our hearts and minds and souls.  I also fully believe that we are fallible beings and sometimes our own biases and desires may dupe us into thinking something is coming from God when it is just our own creation.  And for that reason, I am often leery of those who regularly say things like “God told me this” or “God is doing this” on items that are beyond what is already plainly communicated in Scripture.

This whole topic was brought to mind in the advent of the recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma and they way I saw one well-known Christian speaking about them.  In short, he basically said that God was showing His power through the storms and He was doing it to cause us to respond in humility and repentance.  And I thought, here we go again, another famous Christian speaking authoritatively as if they’ve been given some special revelation as to what God is doing with another earthly tragedy.  Now, this wasn’t as egregious as some have spoken before, saying such things as God is bringing judgment through specific catastrophes for America’s acceptance of homosexuality or their lack of support for Israel, but it is still a similar scenario, just more generalized.

As for myself, if I’m ever going to say that some disaster is God’s doing and give the reason for why He’s doing it, then I darn well better have gotten a direct revelation from God, Himself, telling me this, or else I’m keeping my mouth shut.  Do I believe that God could cause or allow some great adversity to occur for a specific reason?  Sure.  But again, unless God has directly and clearly disclosed the details to me, I’m not telling the world what God is doing with definitive certainty.  (And I’m not looking at this moment to go down the theological rabbit hole of God causing something versus Him allowing something.  That can be a discussion for another day.)

So when I see a fellow brother or sister in Christ saying that God sent a particular tragedy to humble us and cause us to repent, it saddens and frustrates me because I believe God is not being represented fairly or properly.  All the more so when it is done by someone with a large audience and the misrepresentation is far more reaching and impactful.

On the other side of the coin, I have seen other Christians react to this specific incident or similar incidents in the past by declaring that God would never do such thing.  That He has never done anything like it and is incapable of anything like it because God is love.  Therefore, God never has and never would have anything to do with any tragic or traumatic happening except to be there to love the people going through it.  He may not even have any control over it.  And He would never be involved in the sending of any tribulation or exhibiting any type of judgment.

And I agree that God is love.  But what about His justice, and holiness, and omnipotence, and sovereignty, and righteousness, and so on and so on?  Does not God teach us such things and many more about Himself through His Word?  Yes, God is love, but He’s also much more than just love.  And what of all the times in Scripture we are told of God manifesting his judgment?  What of the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah or the final judgment at the end of the age?  To what point can it continue to be claimed that our understanding continually evolves to a higher level where we can see what parts of Scripture are actually God’s Word and true and determine the other parts to be inaccurate and untrue and unauthoritative, etc., etc.?  Or to essentially redefine what those terms even mean?  There are tons of technical particulars and nuance when it comes to Scriptural interpretation, far more than I know or am even aware of.  But beyond all the art and science of biblical interpretation there would also seem to be a pitfall where we can rely more on our own fallen and biased reasoning and desires to make God out to be who we want Him to be rather than trusting that He has communicated accurately and truthfully through His Word.

So on this other side of the coin I am just as saddened and concerned by what I also see as a misrepresentation of God.  And just as much as these Christians have an audience, they can give an, at least partially, false picture of who God is.

One side claims to know God so well that whenever something tragic happens in this world they can assign God as the cause and for what specific reason He caused it.  The other side claims to know God so well that they know He never has been involved in any such calamity or hardship and never has or would execute his judgment upon man.

I am not espousing that we never say anything about God for fear that we get something wrong.  We are called to live out and speak of our faith.  God uses us as instruments to spread his message of salvation and tell people about who He is.  It is a great privilege that we get to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  But it is also a frightening proposition knowing that by our words and actions we are representing the great and holy King over everything.  And that our words and actions often fall woefully short of giving an honorable representation.

We need to find a manner where we can enthusiastically share about God but also do it in a responsible, honorable, and accurate fashion.  Some of us are filled with a great passion to share about the things of God but sometimes lack good understanding or discernment.  Others of us may be quite diligent in gaining a healthy understanding of God but are light in the enthusiasm department or lack the needed care and thoughfulness when sharing.

Whatever our strengths or struggles may be, may God help us to represent Him honorably and with devotion, and may we find refuge in His grace when we fail to do so.                

Sep 192017

I let Miss Kitty out for her morning constitutional and quickly shut the door.

Chester let out a mournful wail as it slammed shut in front of him.

Chester cannot go outside…and it grieves him to the bottom of his soul.


He looked up at me and his countenance asked “What did I do”?

His world has shrunk to the size of one room and he wonders what he has done to be punished so.

He doesn’t understand, he can’t understand, that his confinement is for his own good.

It sure doesn’t feel good to him.

I try to comfort him and assure him he isn’t in trouble, but the comprehension gap between us makes that effort futile.

My guess is that many of us often feel like Chester.

We ask God, “What did I do”?

Life hurts and it seems we’ve been confined to failure and divine discipline.

Now, there are times when we are being disciplined by God.

In fact, He says that one of the ways we know we belong to Him is if He disciplines us.

If that’s the case, though, you won’t have to ask what you did…the Holy Spirit will convict you of your sin.

You’ll know what you did.

God is not a capricious parent who decides to take you to the woodshed just in case you may do something wrong.

Gods discipline for His kids is always rehabilitative, not retributive.

In other words, its for your good to help you change, not to batter you in anger.

He poured out His anger on Christ, so He could pour out grace to you.

Most of the time, you didn’t do anything wrong, at least not wrong enough to merit divine discipline.

You aren’t being punished for being bad, you’re being conformed to the image of Jesus for your good and His glory.

There is no way to conform us into that image without suffering.

Suffering, by nature, doesn’t feel “good”.

He doesn’t explain to us the “why”…the gap between our understanding and His is greater than between Chester and me.

Our suffering is often inexplicable, but it’s never an expression of God’s wrath.

He’s simply making you look like your big Brother.

Jesus asked for another way too…but there wasn’t one.

He says it will be worth it all in the end.

Hang on…pretty soon your door will be open and you can go out with joy again.

He’s not angry with you.

Hang on…


Sep 192017

Did John MacArthur and the Masters College cover up a rape?

We are not germs…

New confession of Protestant unity…

You need to know the difference between “do this” and “done”….

How the church can respond to DACA…

In defense of unspoken prayer requests…

Is the Rapture on the 23rd?

How many churches does America have?

Three problems related to spiritual experiences…

A letter to white church leaders from a black pastor…

Why every church should have weekly Sunday communion…

Is 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 authentic?

The legacy of the Reformation in contemporary evangelicalism…

Latino pastor: the challenge for white evangelicals…

Christian psychology out at Southern…Mohler fires professor…

This is our home…

What to do when the churches thought police come after you…

The ghosts of sins past…

Loving people we hate…

How to pray when we don’t feel like it…

Huge thanks to EricL for the link help…support his work at top right…

Sep 182017

Garage Band Church

I was eleven years old.  Like most of the rest of America, I was parked in front of our black and white television.  It was February 9th, 1964.  Like visitors from another planet, The Beatles appeared on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Show and life would never be the same.

I wanted it all – the hair, the boots, the attitude.  Most of all, I wanted to be in a band.


After months of not so subtle hints (read “continual badgering”) my birthday present was unveiled in the basement – a four piece drum set by Ludwig in black oyster pearl and a card for six months of drum lessons.  I was ecstatic.  Even better, my drum teacher was cool.  It says something about the the innocence of those times that somehow (I still don’t know how) my teacher later convinced my parents to allow me to accompany him to a night club to see James Brown and his Famous Flames.  I think the excuse was that it would help my playing to see a professional drummer! But, I digress…

So, I had my drums and my lessons.  All I needed now was a band.  Thankfully, my friend across the street had the same idea.  He had just been given an Epiphone Wiltshire electric guitar (sure wish I had that today) and a Fender  Deluxe amp (likewise). He had even mastered three chords!  Not only that, his older brother said he could sing.  Finally we found a friend in school whose parents agreed to buy him a bass (a nondescript Japanese model) and a Vox AC15 amp.  Our singer, however, did not have a microphone.  We saved our allowance money, put it all together and bought a second hand mic for $12.00.  No PA system, but we could plug the mic into the second channel of the Fender.  We had a band.

We got together for our first rehearsal.  We thought maybe we could play a Beatles song… we couldn’t.  So, someone suggested “Louie, Louie”.  We tried playing it.  We were terrible!  We kept trying.  In garages and basements around the neighborhood the noise was deafening.  We switched rehearsal venues according to the patience of parents and siblings. Eventually, we even added a couple more songs to our very limited repertoire but, to be honest, I’m not sure we improved all that much.  I think we played at least one birthday party in a basement – repeating our three songs twice! 

We were a garage band, the same as countless others across the country.  Most garage bands weren’t very good.  Most didn’t go anywhere. Some, however, kept at it.  They kept rehearsing, playing and improving.  People like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen come to mind.  They didn’t start off with a great deal of promise. Their equipment was pretty bad and they had a lot to learn, but they had to start somewhere.  That “somewhere” tended to be a less than flashy or professional garage band where, along with the bad music, there was also a good deal of joy and learning.  

The music industry has changed and music has changed with it.

We live in a day of professionalism and spectacle.  Artists with a modicum of ability and/or talent are often ushered into a recording studio, linked up with a team of writers, producers and publicists.  Stage designs are created, image makers are employed and, skipping the fabled 10,000 hours of paying dues, they are unleashed upon the public.  If they crack the charts, great.  If not, they will be set adrift as there are dozens waiting in the wings to take their place.  We no longer have the patience to see a garage band emerge, play terrible venues, write bad songs, then better ones and finally take their place on stage. We want it now…

Unfortunately, this modern model has all too often been applied to the church. 

My first church started with a Bible study with four people in attendance. I had seen Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and thought, we can do that. We met in the living room of the house I was renting.  I had a big Thompson Chain Reference Bible… and very little real theology.  I must confess, I’m glad there are no extant tapes of those Bible studies, because I wasn’t very good.  In fact, there were times when I must have been terrible. We went verse by verse, book by book, just as I was taught.  I ordered tapes from Costa Mesa and listened to them almost to the point of memorization.  I had a friend who played guitar and led the singing.  (A very new Christian, for special music he once introduced the Poco song, “She’s a Barmaid in the Honky Tonk Downstairs”, as an allegory of Christ and the Church!)  All this being said, we learned, we grew together and we loved each other as brothers and sisters.  In time a Christian coffeehouse was opened and, a bit later, we purchased a derelict UMC church which we filled with an active congregation.  Eventually, with a bit more theology and reading under our belts, we even became a eucharistic and liturgical faith community. 

Looking back, I guess that we were sort of a Garage Band church.  We made loads of mistakes, we weren’t very glamorous and, in the beginning, not very professional. I’ll have to say, however, there was a good deal of joy and learning all through the time that we grew together, as individuals and as a body of believers.

Now, if we sought advice today about starting a church, I imagine it would begin with a demographic study of a particular town or city as an “ideal location”.  We might attend a Willow Creek conference.  We would have to think about a multi-use building (not too “churchy”) and then assemble a “ministry team”.  We would need a pastor, a teacher, a counselor, a Christian Ed director, a worship leader and a nursery care director.  Parking would need to be convenient.  Sound equipment and stage lighting with suspended screens at the side and overhead would be a priority in the auditorium (“sanctuary” being considered far to “churchy”).  A Public Relations person or agency would handle the roll-out of the new church.  A key member of the “team” would be in development, i.e. fund-raising.  We might even succeed in planting and growing a church.  We could be known for a great praise band (“some of them went to Berklee, you know”) and our dramatic Sunday morning events.  Maybe… 

Or maybe, just maybe, we need some more Garage Band churches.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

Sep 162017

O God, our sovereign and our shepherd,
who brought again your Son Jesus Christ from the valley of death,
comfort us with your protecting presence
and your angels of goodness and love,
that we also may come home
and dwell with him in your house for ever.

Abide with us, Lord, for it is evening,
and day is drawing to a close.
Abide with us and with your whole Church,
in the evening of the day,
in the evening of life,
in the evening of the world;
abide with us and with all your faithful ones, O Lord,
in time and in eternity. Amen.

Sep 162017

Matthew 26:30-35

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

  • So when they are done they sing hymn.
  • Something I had not noticed before – I thought v.30-35 identified as Jesus foretelling of Peter’s denial took place in the upper room. But read what it says – they sang a hymn and then left to the Mount of Olives and then we have the prediction of Peter denying Jesus … on the Mount of Olives – not the upper room.

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

  • Look how striking this statement is. They just went through the supper – God’s biggest gift – the participation of salvation with Jesus and Jesus sums up with “you will all fall away.”
  • Why? For it is written – again Matthew highlights prophecy.
  • Jesus does his work according to whose word? – The Lord’s word which is OT scriptures. Here it belongs to Zechariah 13
  • Right before the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus speaks of who will betray him and now immediately after, he speaks of all falling away.
  • What a gracious God we have.

32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

  • Jesus tells them he will be raised from the dead and will come gather these scattered sheep once again – it was not kept secret.
  • This is why Jesus knows that he is the only one who can drink that cup in v.29
  • Jesus alone is the one who can predict Peter’s denial.
  • Jesus alone is the only one who can pray in agony in the garden for strength to do his father’s will while the disciples sleep.
  • It is Jesus alone who faces the crowds to arrest him – Jesus alone who faces his betrayer and Jesus alone who stops the hand of Peter who tries to defend him.
  • Jesus alone walks towards the cross – and the way of the cross has been laid out by scripture.
  • All of this Jesus does alone while the disciples get out of Dodge as fast as they can.
  • This is the context of the rest of chapter 26 & 27 – Jesus does this alone because he is the only savior.
  • All of the OT is pointing to this one alone so what do we hear at the end from the last OT prophet John the Baptist? Behold – look nowhere else, this one is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”

  • Once again Jesus makes a declaration and Peter denies Jesus.

34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

  • Jesus gives Peter specifics of his denial and also a trigger, as we will see, to remind Peter of both his failure and Jesus’ prophecy.

35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

  • Peter always gets the bad rap – but read it again – all of the disciples said the same as Peter … and we do also.
  • Paul said in Romans that all scripture is for our learning and instruction – so what are we to take away from this?
  • What do we learn? That Peter was a jerk? That we are all jerks? No, what we learn is that Jesus is savior.
  • This is why he said in v.32 that he would be raised and go ahead of them into Galilee.
  • See Luke 22:31-34 as Jesus prays for Peter and his failures even as he prays for us (plural you is speaking of all the disciples.)
  • This is not primarily a “learn from Peter’s mistakes so you do not do the same thing” moment – this is a learn from Jesus moment. Learn that Jesus is gracious and merciful.


Sep 152017

Chester has had a difficult couple of weeks.

If you translate human time into cat time, it must seem to him to be more like a rough few years.

He’s been kidnapped, taken to the pound, left in the pound, rescued from the pound, locked up in the house, and subjected to much stress.

I spent most of one day trying to fit him with a harness so he could be walked around outside on a leash.

That meant pulling them back and forth over his large head and trying to get the straps to connect around his considerable girth.

This was done over and over again to find one that would fit, though to no avail.

Yesterday, he had to go see the doctor, which meant being stuck in the cat carrier…a place that had to evoke terrible memories.

When we arrived at the veterinarian, the tech immediately shoved a thermometer up his backside while I held him.

This is not conducive to relationship building.

I tell you all of this to tell you that not once in all these things has Chester raised a paw against me.

He has not even once let out a warning growl as he has been subjected to all these indignities.

He has acted puzzled and occasionally sad…sometimes resigned… but he has always been ready to befriend me anew and trust me again.

He is very happy that I’m his human.

I’m not like Chester.

It’s been a rough couple of years and frankly, at times, I’m angry with God.

When I’m not angry, I’m confused, and when I’m not confused, I’m depressed.

I have no idea what God is doing or why He is doing it.

I do know I don’t like any of it.

I feel like Chester must have felt when I held him while the vet tech did her duty.

The difference is that there are days when it seems I’m having my temperature checked multiple times a day.

Some of you understand what I’m saying…

We need to be more like Chester.

Somehow… this cat instinctively knows that everything I’m doing to him, I’m doing to save him.

He knows I have no desire to hurt him.

He doesn’t understand, but he trusts.

He knows that he’s loved.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;” (Job 13:15 ESV)

That must be Chester’s “life verse”.

Maybe it should be mine too.

Maybe yours…

It’s embarassing when your cat has more faith than you do…

Make your own application…

Sep 142017

Who Is My Neighbor?

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ And he answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.’ But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ ” (Luke 10:25-29)

The lawyer, an expert in the Jewish Law, asked Jesus – “And who is my neighbor?” He wanted to know if the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” might exclude any people groups. Faithful discipleship would be a lot easier if we could limit the scope of our love and charity to only those people who are likely to reciprocate or at least share our language, nation, religion, race, ethnicity, etc.

But in asking this question, the lawyer revealed a serious spiritual problem: He had a fundamental misunderstanding of God. There is a sense in which God views the way we treat other people as our treatment of Him. We have many examples of this in the Bible, for example: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord” (Prov 19:17); “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me” (Luke 9:48); and “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matt 25:35-36) Therefore, if we err in our understanding of who our neighbor is, we will err in our understanding of God.

So Jesus told a parable:

“Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.’ ” (Luke 10:30-33)

A neighbor has compassion even on his enemy. He does not see a “Jew” [or insert group], but a wounded man. If anything qualified the man as a neighbor, it was his wounds.

The Neighbor could have remained in heaven equal in glory to the Father, but out of compassion for His enemies: “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8) God gave us the perfect Neighbor to accomplish Divine compassion for and upon us.

“He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34)

A neighbor is merciful to a stranger in need, sharing what he has available to help the wounded man. A neighbor helps the wounded stranger even when the stranger’s own kinsfolk ignore him.

The Neighbor, “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor 8:9) The Neighbor comes to us. The wounds we have suffered in our bondage to sin render us incapable of going to Him for healing.

The Neighbor comes to us through His Word and preachers with Divine medicine: His Gospel heals our sin sick souls and reconciles us to God; He sends the Spirit into our hearts to bear witness with our spirits that we are children of God; and not with an animal, but upon His own shoulders He lays us and carries us as our Good Shepherd who finds us when we are lost.

“And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ ” (Luke 10:35)

A neighbor follows through according to the wounded man’s need. He is generous with his time and financial resources and takes the man to a place where additional suitable care is available.

The Neighbor is generous with His very life, “in that while we were still sinners, [He] died for us.” (Rom 5:8) Yes, the Neighbor ransomed us from sin and death with His own blood and cross.

The Neighbor checks us into His inn, which we call the Church, to give us rest and safekeeping until He returns. In His Church, He appoints innkeepers, who we call pastors and priests, to continue treating us with Divine medicine to strengthen and preserve our faith in Him.

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’ ” (Luke 10:36-37)

As you may have noticed, the Parable of the Good Samaritan is first and foremost a description of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Jesus is the Neighbor par excellence. Therefore, if we want to know who our neighbor is, we should first look at Jesus. He is the Neighbor to all people, which means all people must be within the definition of a neighbor to us. Jesus, God’s eternal Word, was incarnate of human flesh, so that He could redeem all human flesh, as it is written: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Rom 5:18)

The love of God and the love of neighbor are inextricably connected to one another, but everything depends on Jesus Christ, our Neighbor, who first must come to us with His Gospel to give us new life and salvation through the forgiveness of sins, which is ours as a gift to be received by faith in His atoning death and resurrection. Then, as Christ continues to heal and feed us in His Church with His gifts of the Gospel and the Sacraments, He strengthens us in faith towards God and in fervent love towards our neighbors. Amen.

“Where charity and love prevail,
there God is ever found;
Brought here together by Christ’s love,
by love are we thus bound.

With grateful joy and holy fear
God’s charity we learn;
Let us with heart and mind and soul
now love God in return.

Forgive we now each other’s faults
as we our faults confess;
And let us love each other well
in Christian holiness.

Let strife among us be unknown,
let all contention cease;
Be God’s the glory that we seek,
be ours God’s holy peace.

Let us recall that in our midst
dwells God’s begotten Son;
As members of his body joined,
we are in Christ made one.

No race or creed can love exclude,
if honored be God’s name;
Our family embraces all
whose Father is the same.”

(Where Charity and Love Prevail, tr. Omer E. Westendorf)

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