I wonder how we miss the obvious…Jeff McNair

avatar.jpg.320x320pxLuke 10 tells the following story.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

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.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

It is interesting that the expert in the law wanted to “test” Jesus. The implication is that he already knew what the answer to the first question was otherwise it would have been a question and not a test. But Jesus turns it around onto him and he answers correctly. End of discussion. But No! For some reason he wanted to justify himself. Or maybe he was upset because his test was turned on him. So he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Now that could have been another test, but I am not sure he really knew the answer. Something caused him to want to justify himself. The dictionary gives an interesting definition of justify. It states, to give an acceptable explanation for something that other people think is unreasonable. It is definitely unreasonable to expect someone to love their neighbor as themselves. At least you might think so from the interaction, but also from the way you see each of us fail to love our neighbors and both the example and challenge put on us by those over us.

Jan_Wijnants_-_Parable_of_the_Good_SamaritanBut in response to the neighbor question, Jesus doesn’t describe an easy neighbor. He “doubles down” by describing someone who is a very difficult neighbor to love. He is someone in danger who might place you in danger. He is someone whose life is a complete mess and would cause your life to be a mess. He is someone who needs transportation and money. He is someone who might need ongoing care and attention. And, he is someone whose people have been unkind to my people. No, the heck with that, he is not the kind of neighbor I would expect God to cause me to love. But even the expert in the law gets the message.

“Who was his neighbor?” Jesus asks.

“The one who had mercy on him” he responds.

To treat someone with compassion who is under your power is how the dictionary defines having mercy on someone. The man left for dead was totally under the power of whoever happened by, to show compassion to him. This is the experience of each of us to those around us. They are all our neighbors. We have the power to show them compassion. But too often our response is to not use our power. We walk by, seemingly acting if we don’t know who our neighbor is.

But Jesus said to the expert (and to us), “Go and do likewise.” I wonder if he had any idea what Jesus meant? It is easy to criticize that law expert or the two who walked by the man beaten and left for dead for that matter. But you know, in that story the expert in the law is us, the Christian church! We are not the man beaten, we are not the Samaritan. At least it seems that most of the time we are not. We are the ones trying to test Jesus, who get our tests turned back on us, and are then challenged to do something with our power to show compassion.

“Jesus, I know the answer to the commandment question by heart, but do you really expect me to go and do likewise?”

I wonder what we will do?

McNair MemeJeff McNair is Director of the Public Policy Center of Joni and Friends’ Christian Institute on Disability. He directs the entirely online, MA program in Disability Studies at California Baptist University. Jeff and his wife (Kathi) facilitate the Light & Power Company ministry at Trinity Church. They have been in local church ministry together since 1977. Jeff presented at Inclusion Fusion 2011 on integration of persons with disabilities as a core value of the local church.

Painting: Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijnants

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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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