One thing I dislike about surgery is the paperwork needed to be filled out. Now, I don’t mind the forms that just need my name and address, but then come the pages that ask me to make payment in case the insurance doesn’t cover, accept medical consequences in case they mess up, etc. etc. I felt like they are pressing me into volunteering myself for things I don’t understand. You see we all love the idea of being a volunteer until they are asked to be one. From church organizations to community boards, from someone delivering meals to the elderly to simply being blood donors, there seems to be an ever-diminishing pool of people willing to volunteer. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, (FLSA) defines volunteers as individuals that provide services without any expectation of compensation, and without any coercion or intimidation. Maybe things would change if we used Jesus’ much less complicated definition. He simply calls us to be neighbors. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus finds himself in conversation with a lawyer looking for a loophole (not much has changed in 2,000 years!) When asked about which was the most important commandment, the lawyer quickly 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.” Luke 10:27 ESV
When Jesus simply agreed with him, the lawyer realized that he had just opened himself up to a whole universe of things he might not want to do. So, looking for a bit of wiggle room, he followed up with another question, “And who is my neighbor?” We might feel superior to that guy because we know today that Jesus answered that question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who doesn’t love that guy? But are we really that much different? Of course, we all want to be a good Samaritan, until we get cornered about making actual commitments. Then we start looking for some wiggle room ourselves. In case you are short on wiggles, here are a few of mine: “I’ll pray about it. – I’ll have to check with my wife. – Maybe after the Summer (or Winter, Spring or Fall).” The hard truth is that there isn’t a convenient or comfortable way to be the kind of neighbor that Jesus asked us to be. But the good news is that Jesus never asked us to do this all on our own (something the lawyer missed). Jesus came to be our neighbor and He laid down His life so we could be His. When we ask Him to take over and be Lord of our lives, we discover that He has a place for us in His beautiful neighborhood in Heaven. If we thankfully remember that Jesus is our neighbor, it will make it so much easier to be neighbors to a whole slew of people that we discover along our way. Though it isn’t always easy, and it is a big world, with God’s help we can joyfully learn to go out and love one neighbor at a time!
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