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?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:25-37
As promised, we will continue with our series; “My Way, His Way” and this week we are looking at what Jesus said and what He meant when He tells us to love our neighbors. Late last night, I got home from a mission trip in Jamaica. 19 of us, 14 high school kids and 5 adult leaders spent a week serving and loving our neighbors in Jamaica. I am hoping and praying God gives me the words to relate this scripture to some of what was done on our mission trip. But as I sit here this morning, for once, the words elude me. How do you capture on a piece of paper what God does in your heart? How do you describe a seed that has been planted and how it begins to grow underground? Some of it will just have to wait until it begins to grow and pop up above the ground before it can really be expressed. Already people have asked, “How was your trip?” and I struggle to tell them. How do I put it into words what was wonderful and yet devastating, lovely and yet horrible? Maybe an example will help and maybe, if God is willing, it will help us see what Jesus means when He tells us to love our neighbors.
When I was young, my mom and dad were constantly doing some kind of remodeling on our house. They expanded the house more times than I can count. They added rooms, garages, closets, bathrooms, finished the basement, expanded the basement and added a master bedroom. The house always looked more beautiful when it was done, but the process to get there was a little messy and sometimes challenging. It cost money and time and it was a huge inconvenience to have the house remodeled. It displaced everything and sometimes you just longed to have things back to normal but you couldn’t because it was already started and there really was no turning back. The job needed to be finished after it was started. You had to proceed with the process or else you would just live in disarray forever.
When we added on the family room of my childhood home, Dad added the room but then eventually the wall that was between the addition and the old part of the house had to be broken down so as to expand the house. The house would never be bigger if the process of breaking down the other walls didn’t happen. It was a messy process. Dad would take a sledge hammer and crow bar and tear down the wall. Then he would make the two rooms become one bigger one. So sometimes it looked like it would just be a mess until we continued to work and then pretty soon it all came together to look like a part of the house that had always been there. But the key is, walls had to be broken so the expansion could take place.
Each one of us has a home in our heart and that is where Christ lives in us. And don’t think for one minute that Jesus doesn’t want to do some remodeling and expansions in your heart. Like my mom and dad, Christ is constantly working on our heart homes, trying to expand it so that His home would be large and able to fit many people in there and more of Him in there too. He wants to spread out a bit. Have a little room to move, have a little room to store a few nice things away and enough room to invite others in too. But some of the walls of our very heart need to be broken so the expansion can take place.
I think that is what my trip to Jamaica was like-a remodeling project. The walls of my heart had to be broken for the expansion of my heart to take place. As you might guess, having the walls of your heart broken down hurts. No one ever signs up for a broken heart. Not one person is willing to do that! No, in fact, most of the time we try to avoid having our hearts broken. We don’t want the hurt. But the thing is, if we don’t, we won’t ever have a big heart either. Our hearts will stay small and only a few will be invited into our hearts and sadly, if that is the case, Christ never really gets comfortable in our heart homes either. So as I and the others on my team walked, drove and worked in Jamaica, God broke down a few walls of our hearts and began a good work in us, expanding our heart homes and remodeling our hearts. But the process was a little messy. It was hard but worth it. Our hearts are going to have more room for Him and more room for others. That is why the trip is both wonderful and devastating, beautiful and yet horrible. What God is doing is great but the process by which He does it is hard sometimes. Jesus never said following Him would be easy and lets face it, His ways are different than our ways. But oh, I can’t wait to see what these heart homes may look like when He finishes them!
As we look at this scripture today, we see people who would not allow God to expand their hearts. The priest and the Levite weren’t willing to let the expansion of their heart happen. They walked on the other side of the street from the man that was hurting. They didn’t want the walls of their heart broken, they didn’t want the mess, the inconvenience and the expense. They were content with their little heart homes. The walls they had in place that they didn’t want broken were called, prejudice, pride, self-righteousness, selfishness and fear. They didn’t want those walls broken. They were comfortable with the smallness of their heart. They were the kings of those little heart homes. But if a person is going to allow the King of Kings into their heart, then the heart needs to be expanded. No little tiny house will do! No, a big mansion is needed for such a King. When Jesus comes into your heart and becomes King of your heart home, then remodeling must occur. There must be room in the INN of your heart for Jesus to come and reside there. He will come into a stable but He doesn't want to keep it a stable. He wants to make it a castle with many rooms.
The Samaritan allowed himself to hurt. It says the Samaritan had pity on the man. Another word for that is compassion. He had compassion for the man lying in the street. The Samaritan allowed the walls to be broken and for his heart to be remodeled. Don’t think for one minute that those were easy walls to have broken. But he allowed his heart to be touched and changed so eventually it would look more like Christ’s heart.
And that my friend is what I want! How about you? How willing are you to look at something devastating and have compassion for those people? Do you turn the TV off when the starving children are shown and the announcer asks for your donation? Do you avoid loving any one too much or being close to anyone too much because you are afraid to have your heart broken? Do you have walls built that you will not allow God to break down? Are they walls that say you are better than others, more “right” then others? Do you step back from anything that will hurt your heart? Love, friendships, mission, service? Do you realize that by doing that, you are in sense contributing to your poverty, the poverty of your heart, while the ones who open their hearts for remodeling are more rich then you, they have bigger houses than you do!
Jesus tells us to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and then He asks us to love others. But we have to have bigger hearts to do that otherwise there won’t be enough room.
In Jamaica this week, I saw walls broken down. I saw hearts open up. I saw God at work in the kids, adults and in the people we served. I saw friendships being formed beyond all the barriers of culture, age and education. I saw people come together as a body of Christ to serve others. I saw people who had easily judged by appearance before now only judged by the heart. I saw people reach out in love to people who were different than them. Not just us to them but them to us too! I saw people love with their whole hearts and do things that they never would have done before. I saw people reach out to the elderly, the mentally ill, the poorest of poor and children who have been abandoned and unloved. I saw people stretch themselves to love and encourage people who are SO different than them. I saw people come together to work together, play together, look out for each other and laugh together. I saw the poorest of poor become rich. I saw the lottery of God’s love fall on all who opened the door to Him. I saw people look beyond the physical and love people from the inside out. And I saw laughter, tears and unimaginable joy in the midst of the hard. I saw hope in the midst of what seems hopeless. I saw God working in a way that is so different than our way and I saw love that has no walls and hearts that were open to be remodeled into the huge mansions that God intended them to be. Hearts with many rooms, expanding porches, and living space for all and for God. How difficult the remodeling but how beautiful as you watch it being done!
This is what Jesus means when He tells us to love Him with all our hearts and then to love others as we love ourselves. It means we see the broken, the hurting of the world and not close our eyes or turn our heads from it but face it and allow our hearts to be broken so they can be bigger. We are to allow God to work in our hearts so we have lots of room not just for our families and close friends but for people who we barely know but yet love like family. This is what Jesus tells us, that loving our neighbor’s means that we would lay ourselves down for Him and for others. That we wouldn’t make the walls of our heart so thick and strong that no compassion and love can even squeeze through. But we are to have walls of plywood. Walls that can be pushed over and easily broken.
Now here I am again, just one day after being home from Jamaica, trying to finish this for you and the tears roll down my cheeks as I think of how my heart home has been expanded. It now has room for 36 boys across the ocean. It has room for the woman named Lynette, who I met while serving breakfast to the homeless. It has room for the elderly in Jamaica, their names I might forget but their faces are imprinted on my heart. It has room for the staff at Sunbeam and it also has room for 14 youth from my church and 4 new adult friends. How incredibly blessed I am to have all those people in my heart home. I am richer than I ever have been and yet nothing in my bank account has changed. Only the bank account of my heart is overflowing because my heart now has more rooms, more space to have more of all those that I love kept safe in my heart.
Will you allow your heart to be broken and have compassion on someone? Will you love your neighbor how Jesus is asking you to? Give it a try. Love like crazy and feel the riches of God, those riches are the only ones you get to keep for eternity anyway.
Jesus Christ is my biggest passion. It is one of my greatest joys to share that passion with others through teaching, bible study, speaking and writing. It is my hope that others will know the love of God in Christ Jesus. But I will be honest, I didn't start out that way it has been a process that God has been working in me for quite some time. He takes the glory even for my passion.
Written By: Sue Oberg
Jesus Christ is my biggest passion. It is one of my greatest joys to share that passion with others through teaching, bible study, speaking and writing. It is my hope that others will know the love of God in Christ Jesus. But I will be honest, I didn't start out that way it has been a process that God has been working in me for quite some time. He takes the glory even for my passion. www.ontheottoman.com