“Which of these three do you think was neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
--- Luke 10:36
Do you recognize the verse today? It’s from one of Jesus’ most famous parables: the parable of the good Samaritan. Now, we’ve been talking about being one. Yesterday, the devotional dealt with being one by helping each other and forgiving. So, where does the parable of the good Samaritan fit into this discussion.
Well, to be honest, the whole parable really doesn’t. But the way Jesus goes about teaching, well, there’s the amazing thing we want to look at today. Because obviously, Jesus is interested in people living in “the way” and living as “one.” So how did he teach people to do this?
I don’t know if you know this, but the parable of the good Samaritan is given in response to a specific question from an expert in the law. His question is: “Who is my neighbor?” See, in the Jewish world, the experts of the law at the time had realized that the greatest commandments were to love God and love their neighbor as themselves. So now they were trying to define neighbor.
Now, (there’s a whole fascinating side commentary to this story, someone please ask me about it, it’s killing me not to write about it, but it’s not the point…) how does Jesus respond to the man’s question? Jesus tells a story and then Jesus asks a question. This is significant. And it’s not a one time thing. Jesus does it throughout Scripture (“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish would give him a snake instead?” “Who do you say I am?” etc.) God does it in the Old Testament too, just check out the last three chapters of the book of Job. Job has been asking God to answer his complaints, and God answers with a laundry list of questions for Job.
What’s the fascinating thing about a question that is different from simply giving an answer? The amazing, remarkable thing is that a question requires something from the asker. It requires them to use their mind, it requires them to think, to weigh possibilities, to struggle to form an opinion, to imagine.
So one might say that Jesus teaches people to live on “the way” as “one” by saying (sorry, for the paraphrase God): “Okay, I want you to live a certain way. That way includes loving me, helping others out, forgiving them so that you can be one. So how do you think you should do that?”
There’s not a lot of specifics there, but because of that it requires us to imagine all the possibilities and struggle through whether or not we can make them a reality. Or maybe imagining the possibilities and then struggling to make them a reality. Whatever it is: the way also includes imagination and struggle.
But that means we can’t just try to escape when questions are being asked of us. We can’t just try to escape when we don’t know the answers. We can’t just quit when there don’t seem to be any more options. We can’t give up when it gets really hard to keep going. No, instead we have to rev up our imaginations and prepare ourselves for some struggle.
So what questions need to be asked of you right now? Maybe some hard ones, like do you even care what God is asking of you? Are you willing to imagine and struggle with God? Are the questions to scary for you to face? Do you have a community that could help with that? Are you willing to help others?
Or maybe more tennis camp related: Are you committed to the idea of being one? Or do you laugh about the idea at night with others who don’t care? Are you willing to put the others on the team first and help them through struggles, coming up with solutions and ideas to help each other? Or will you simply focus on winning your match, and forget that there are others who need you?
Are you scared of taking on questions? Are you scared of the struggle they bring? I hope not…do you know what God’s people were called in Old Testament? Israel. Their name was Israel. Do you know what that means in their language, in Hebrew? It means, “struggles with God.” God wants us to struggle through things, to imagine the answers and solutions to questions. He wants us to struggle be challenged by our relationship with Him. Because it’s in the struggle that we grow.