Sunday, April 22, 2012

Failure of the Church, part 2

To balance out the recent post protesting the constant browbeating we get from preachers about how we have failed as individuals and the church, I would direct attention to the Good Samaritan.  This passage in Luke 10 is in the middle of a wider argument.

Jesus starts with "The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.  Pray that laborers will be sent forth."  He doesn't want us to get our eyes off the need, which will always be there, "the poor you have with you always."  Jesus wasn't being cold when he said that; he was being a realist and reminding us of our responsibility.  In no way do I want my post from yesterday to be construed as justifying ignorance or apathy about social concerns.  What I want is for us to stop acting like the sacrifices and work that is being done do not exist.

After that section of Luke 10, a lawyer comes to Jesus, testing him, and asks about the greatest commandment, which is the Shema, and "love your neighbor as yourself."  Notice the word is love, not serve.  Notice that it is the totality of your being, not just the emotions or mind or hands.  This will be enough to obtain salvation--if possible.  The standard set up reveals our sin and need by contrast, not how we can self-justify.  The lawyer isn't satisfied, so he wants to know who is his neighbor, and Jesus tells an indirect story that answers the question backward.  It's not your countryman or the person on your street, it's everyone on the planet. 

Jesus never places thoughtless obedience to ritual purity of the law over human need and compassion.  While the Levite and priest ignore the beaten man's need because of fear of defilement, they don't get way with that.  Jesus touches the lepers, healed on the Sabbath, and told his disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath.  Compassion trumps all.

In the last section of this chapter, we see the Mary-Martha sister act.  Mary here is contemplative, listening, patient; Martha is busy, scolding, serving, frustrated.  I am Martha, all over.  I would yell at Mary, too.  Mary's intentions are probably good--get food on the table.  We have moved from "the whole world is your field" to "be a neighbor wherever you see need" to "choose the good part, start with me." 

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