|Photo by Michael Belk, "Journeys with the Master"...|
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."No, what I want to talk about is the works of the believer after he has been saved. In Ephesians 2:10 we are reminded that,
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."So, we were created by God through Christ to do good works...it is something that is expected of each believer. Not as a prerequisite for salvation, but as an action of the heart, an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God as a result of the salvation that we did not, could not earn...a way of giving back to God out of the humility and gratitude of our hearts for such a precious gift.
I was thinking about the story of the "Good Samaritan" this morning, found in the book of Luke 10:25-37. I'm sure we've all heard this story before, how there was a certain man who was traveling and fell among thieves. And the robbers stripped him of his clothing, beat him up, and left him half dead along the road.
Along comes a priest, on his way to the Synagogue no doubt, and when he sees the man lying there in his agony and pain, the priest actually crosses over to the opposite side of the road and turns his head and goes on as if he didn't even see him. Next there was a Levite, a man of the Law, who also drove by and looked the other way...just couldn't be bothered...I'm sure he was on his way to the court to make lots of money off of other unfortunate people.
Now along came a Samaritan...a stranger in that land...a person who would not have been considered a good religious man or even a person whom one would have trusted because of his national heritage and ethnic background...and when he saw that poor man lying in the ditch crying out for help, he stopped, had compassion on the man, bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal (or in his own luxury vehicle?), and took him to the nearest inn and personally took care of him!
The next morning, when this Samaritan man needed to get on to his destination, he went to the innkeeper and gave him his own money out of his own pocket, and asked the innkeeper to please take care of the injured man, and when he returned he would repay him whatever more he had spent in his care.
Jesus asked the young man to whom He was telling this story which person he believed was a good neighbor to the man who had fallen among the thieves. The young man replied, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)
So now, dear "Christian Friends", let me ask you this, why is it that oftentimes the people who are the first to come to our aid with offers of casseroles, rides to the doctor for chemo treatments, help with babysitting, thoughtful gifts of encouragement and items to comfort us in our time of need are NOT always the church people, our best friends, or even family members? Why is it that often times the people who show the most concern, love and compassion are total strangers? In reality they are often people that we would not consider to be "good Christians", as we judge christianity from our lofty, sanctimonious religious balconies of false piety and holiness. Why is that?
Perhaps you don't believe that could be true...maybe you think that since you pay your tithe each week at church and you sing in the choir, and you might even attend an extra Bible Study or serve on a committee that you have done your part. You must be a "good Christian". Yes, you are saved because you have accepted the free gift of salvation offered only through faith in Jesus Christ, but have you actually thought about your neighbor? Do you turn your head in disgust when you see someone in trouble, perhaps because of their own folly and inappropriate behaviour you think they deserve what they have gotten? Do you think that because they have lived a less than holy lifestyle (by your standards) that they somehow deserve punishment, disease, an unwanted pregnancy, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce, or whatever else...and that therefore you are not required to assist them in any way? After all, it's their own fault they got into this mess, so let them suffer? And even if that was a good reason,(which I am not saying it is or isn't...may GOD be the judge) what excuse can you give for your inactivity when the injured or sick person IS a good Christian by all standards, and through no fault of their own they are suffering from a dread disease, divorce, bankruptcy, loss of a dear loved one, etc.
I am just as guilty of this as the person sitting next to me in church on a typical Sunday morning. We have all come short in reaching out to our neighbors with the love and compassion of Christ. I know I have failed in this many times. So what can I do about it? How can I change? Maybe first of all by praying and repenting of this sin of omission, asking forgiveness, and then asking God to open my eyes to the lost and hurting all around me. They aren't just people "out there" somewhere...many of them are right next to us...at work, at church, even in our own families.
Link to "Give Me Your Eyes" "Give Me Your Eyes" by Brandon Heath is a song that expresses a lot of what I am trying to say today..."Give Me Your Eyes" for just one second...
Lord...Let me see the people around me the way YOU see them...those right here in my own family, my neighborhood, my office, my church...help me Lord, not just to see them, but to reach out to them in love...YOUR love, Your compassion, Your heart, Your arms...Your eyes.... and forgive me for all the times I've turned my eyes away, crossed over to the other side of the road, and ignored their cries for help. And thank you, Lord, for all the people You have sent my way in my time of need...for those who didn't ignore your promptings and who came to my rescue. Thank you Lord, for total strangers who oftentimes were the ones who cared the most. Bless them Lord today...and help me to be a blessing to those You send my way.