Be Happy, God will understand

I recently listened to an interview I found by happenstance of an old acquaintance.  I had always admired her brilliance and tenacity, her quiet way and her commitment to her religion. I don’t think it is important for purposes of this story to tell you what religion she is, it is enough to know that she was devout and humble all at the same time. 

I don’t know what made me think of her, but I was curious to see what she was up to. Last I had seen, she had the perfect career and perfect life, still devout and lovely. But this interview was different. It was many years later and life was not so perfect. Her religion had not changed , but her life had. So she was quick to meld her words to fit her life’s circumstances. My God would understand this, and He would understand that. I have to make myself happy and I cannot worry about what other people think. I was perplexed. Her God had remained the same, her devotion the same, but her life had not. So she fit her God into her life’s circumstances to ascribe to a “Be Happy God will understand” theory which completely blew my mind.

These thoughts were not unlike so many I have heard and areas which Paul has recently explored on Just Me Being Curious where he discusses openly the hypocritical Christian and their unconscious quest to use the bible as a weapon. Paul goes into an in-depth discussion of whether the bible is fiction and other deep-rooted and tough questions, but the message is deeper than that. While my old acquaintance sings a song of “Be Happy God will understand” the song that Paul’s talking about is more along the lines of “The only way to believe is the way I do.” Both schools of thought though steeped in religion are cloaked in secularism. Twisting our way into what “we” believe is right or wrong based on our own selfish notions. What bothered me about the interview was not the fact that she was still devout to her God. What bothered me was that she had made God devout to her.

This is a continued thought in our culture, in our world, where we make God just ours. The bible or Quran or Torah can have only that person’s interpretations, and there is no other room. It is this way or that, no room for exploration or understanding. It is the reason that modern-day religion is more secular than it is anything else.

I look to those who have criticized Mother Teresa’s care for the dying. She a Catholic, speaking to them and praying with them in their own religion, their familiar God. Restoring their dignity in the last breath with a comfort each individual will understand. She has played a great role for me in understanding the human person and Jesus, and the dynamic that exists between the two.

You see if we were really Christians, people would know. We wouldn’t make God live in a bible, or on an altar, or in a Sunday sermon, we would let Him live in us. It’s not a matter of conversion, it is a matter of being. I don’t seek to convert anyone other than myself to be the love that Jesus is or was. I don’t subscribe to the “Be happy God will understand theory” because taken in context that is a selfish way to be. The only way for me to live is ensuring that I am doing my best to invest my happiness in you. More like, “Be happy, invest that happiness, because I acknowledge Lord that it comes from you.”

When we get outside of ourselves and realize that God is much bigger than a t-shirt or a slogan, the real work begins. Because if we’ve discovered that life is not about our own self-satisfaction but rather attending to the needs of someone who will never be able to repay us, following Jesus gets real.

If you ask me if I’m a hypocrite I’ll tell you yes, that I am working on it. If you ask me if I’ll convert you, I’ll tell you I’m too busy working on myself. If you want me to show you God, I’ll try my best. But it will probably involve a cup of coffee, admitting who and what I am and asking for your forgiveness.

Religion … thought for the day

Forms of the word

Dictionary: θρησκεία, ας, ἡ

Greek transliteration:  thrēskeia

Simplified transliteration:  threskeia

Frequency in New Testament:  4

Gloss:  religion, worship

Definition:  religious worship, Col. 2:18; religion, a religious system, Acts 26:5; religion, piety, Jas. 1:26, 27*

Greek-English Concordance for θρησκεία

Acts 26:5
for they have known from the first, if they are willing to go on record, that I lived as a Pharisee according to the strictest party of our religious (thrēskeias | θρησκείας | gen sg fem) system.

Colossians 2:18
Let no one rob you of your prize, insisting on self-abasement and the worship (thrēskeia | θρησκείᾳ | dat sg fem) of angels, taking his stand on visions, puffed up with empty notions by his earthly way of thinking.

James 1:26
If someone thinks that he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion (thrēskeia | θρησκεία | nom sg fem) is worthless.

James 1:27
Religion (thrēskeia | θρησκεία | nom sg fem) that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their time of trouble, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Bill Mounce

 

Matthew Mark Luke John??

Nada. Zilch. Nein. No.

Seems Jesus never used the word. Not like we do. Not like we like to. Not like we like to own the word.

Not like we all seem to mean God or Church or Love or Compassion – just with a different spelling.  Not like that.

From what I can see.

 

(my thanks to The Smiling Pilgrim, “Verse of the Day”)

No one shall appear before me empty handed

Jesus Christ, Rio Janeiro, Christ, StatueWe follow Jesus at a distance- following too close is costly. For everything that we are and everything that we strive to be still has some meaning in the world, as long as we let it. We can tell ourselves that one or two drinks will be o.k. but then we drink ourselves to excess. One night will not lead anywhere. God will rescue me. But if God is the rowboat, we are the oars, and some of us have forgotten how to paddle.

Jesus is not a lot of talk, he is a lot of silence. He does not babble on and on and write you excuses for what it is you want to do. He is a mystery in this world, completely not of it, and therefore not a partaker in its sin. 

We come empty-handed to God expecting magic tricks. If I pray enough, If I read enough scripture things will surely change for me. But the bible is not a wand and our words to heaven are not hocus pocus. Change from within is a slow process and we have to come with something, something to leave behind and sacrifice on His holy altar.

Nobody thinks much about sacrifice, it is counter-cultural. But Jesus is counter-cultural. If Jesus walks left, we should be walking right. The journey is dirty. It is too much to leave what we have and be with Him. We love our addiction more than we love Him. We are addicted to our own selves and the selfishness that it produces.

You don’t have to leave the world to follow Him, well not in a physical sense anyway. But yes you will have to leave the world. That includes your pride, your drugs, your definitions of what is acceptable behavior, your just this one time, your excuses, your holding onto the world. The drink may go down smooth, but Jesus refused it for you. He felt his pain.

The gospel is harsh. It is not a neat package or clean or money raining down from heaven. It is not undefined. There is no confusion about what it says, the world confuses that. It is bright lines. You don’t like it because it’s not easy. You don’t like it because it is speaking directly to you. You don’t like it because it requires you to sacrifice the very thing that you love, and you love it more than you love him, so you follow Him at a distance.

“the whole world  (which) is in the power of the evil one” makes man’s life a battle.” (Catechism 409, 1 John 5:19).

You’ll never get anywhere if you can’t touch him; if you are sitting down with the servants to see the outcome. (Matthew 26:58). The gospel is not a show in high-definition. 

“Peter was following him at a distance as far as the high priest’s courtyard, and going inside he sat down with the servants to see the outcome.” Matthew 26:58

I will meet you

20160514_070935The challenges of motherhood are many, but it is who I am. I never asked God to make me famous, rich or powerful. I never asked him for a big house or lots of friends. I grew up with a sense of knowing, what I now know is my vocation, motherhood. There was never anything I wanted more than that. But I had a sense from a young age that would be a struggle. The Holy Spirit was present and alive to me ever before I knew who Jesus Christ was, and even though I was not a believer in Christ, I knew God and saw His hand in my life. So when I struggled to have children I found it a curse, cruel, a God that didn’t hear my shouts for mercy, my Hannah prayers, my desperation.

For those that have not grappled with infertility, I am glad for you. Out of all the things I have contended with in my life, this by far was the greatest fight for my soul. I wanted children like I wanted water, it wasn’t a choice, it was a necessity.

After several opinions, I stumbled across a doctor willing to help me. His name was Dr. Christie, I can’t make this stuff up. I was not a believer in Christ at the time but even I as a Jewish girl recognized the name. It was subtle. God doesn’t bulldoze his way through, He glides gently. It was one of a series of small whispers, God’s call to me. Subtle.

Dr. Christie was my third opinion. I came armed and prepared with my research and data. I had by this time diagnosed myself. I had come from a doctor who told me I’d never have children unless I paid him $25,000. The world of infertility is legalized extortion. I told myself that this time around with this doctor, I would put him to the test.

But he wasn’t like the others. He was quiet, kind… unassuming. At the time he was working in a small infertility office. He had been at the job exactly one week.  The specialist that owned the practice brought him on. That specialist was booked up for six months. But not Dr. Christie- he was available right away.

I hesitated to make the appointment. The words “he’s wide open because he’s new” are not usually a good sign. But something drew me in. I knew it was his name.

I sat down with the good doctor. He was visibly nervous. He had just moved his whole life to Florida and he was a true southern boy, accent and all. But his presence was calming to me. We spoke, and he rattled off his diagnosis- the same one I had come up with. I told him he was hired. He told me he couldn’t guarantee me anything, but that I was a good candidate for an alternative to IVF.  He told me with a smile that he had a good feeling.

We started the process, Shlomi and I. It was a perpetual wave of emotions. We started out with pills, then moved on when I told Dr.Christie that I was ready to go for it, full force. He smiled again. He knew why.

More drugs this time in the form of shots. What an emotional time. Your husband injecting you in the hopes for a baby. He was so gentle. I would cry out of sheer emotional pain. It wasn’t the needle that hurt me, it was the reminder of the needle that hurt me. But Shlomi was there encouraging me, telling me, I was going to be a mother, He was sure of it.  Another subtle reminder. Another subtle reminder of Jesus.

Several months, lots of drugs, emotions high and the blood test that changed my life. A call from Dr. Christie. I was on edge. I had been pregnant twice before and lost those within a couple of weeks. I closed my eyes.

I was pregnant, and he had a suspicion that it was multiples.

I felt the sting of the needle, unsure of God, could He be this cruel? It was my birthday, 2008.

7 weeks in I entered the room. There were three. Shlomi, Dr. Christie and me. Dr. Christie had inadvertently become an inextricable part of my journey. I trusted him. And before I looked up to see the ultrasound, to hope for a baby and not an empty sac or no heartbeat, I looked over at Dr. Christie. He told me he had a good feeling.

And there it was. His good feeling on a screen. His instinct. My pain. The needles. My husband’s confidence in God. And my husband was an atheist at best. Two sacs. Two heartbeats. Two babies in my belly. That is when I knew God had not left me. That is the moment I knew that God had not forgotten me, my destiny, to be a mother. And He didn’t stop there. Three months after I delivered my twins I found out I was pregnant with my third. No drugs or doctors or needles. God filled my belly. Why? The first prayer I ever prayed from my heart that I understood, not in Hebrew.

God I want another baby. Please God give me another baby, and He did. 

Although my third was not the result of any intervention, I only trusted Dr. Christie. With my condition, I knew there was a high chance I’d lose this one too. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t lose this one. And he happily agreed to monitor me for Meadow’s first 12 weeks of life. He was there when I heard her heartbeat too. I knew it was a miracle. Only God could do that…

I believe I was destined for the cross, destined for Christ. I believe God chose me before I ever chose Him. I believe God picked my vocation and filled my belly with three babies. I believe in divine providence and its many and numerous gifts. I believe He dresses me in sacred vestments. I believe His altar is wherever He meets you.

Exodus 30:6, “This altar you are to place in front of the veil that hangs before the ark of the covenant where I will meet you.”

The Church as We Know Her

Recently, God started revealing another aspect of this Christian walk that I couldn’t quite figure out for some time. A simple statement someone mentioned opened up a beautiful perspective on the “why.” First, I wanted to explain a little of the background, relevant as to how I’ve come to see things.

It appears many Christian organizations are adamant about defending their stances while claiming Biblical backing. Mostly though, this backing seems skewed. One example (of many), when Paul speaks about deacons and overseers, the requirements wouldn’t be terribly hard for the majority of “laity” today. Yet many in a congregation are relegated to participating in a weekly ritual instead of becoming deacons and overseers as new fellowships form. The requirements have now been elevated beyond the reach of most laypeople. Instead of a spreading, there is a containment in deference to building a ministry upwards instead of letting it flow outwards.

What we see in the early church is an out-flowing as congregations spreaded from house to house and new overseers and deacons became needed to serve these new fellowships. These weren’t paid positions, and they didn’t require the purchasing of buildings and other worldly assets. Instead, any money voluntarily given was used for those who needed it—whether that was inside or outside of that specific congregation. In comparison, much of our money today goes to keeping the machinery running instead of helping others. The small percentage that may go to others is paltry in comparison to the potential impact we could be having in our world.

However, even though the format we’ve established today may (arguably) not be Biblical, there is, admittedly, some movement of the Holy Spirit—if only on rare occasion. This is upheld as irrefutable proof that “our” ministry is right and that if we continue to repeat the same things over and over, the Holy Spirit will continue to move in the same way. In other words, it would seem that we seek containment and control of the Holy Spirit within our doctrinal confines, even though this may not be our conscious intent. We seek to market God to others in the setting and way we’ve predefined, setting limits as to how the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in our world.

This brings me to the question that has been on my mind for some time, but I couldn’t quite resolve—If our modern church entity wasn’t Jesus’ intent (according to how he describes her in the Bible), why do we see an occasional movement within these institutions? I’m not necessarily speaking of an emotionally charged movement (I have honestly never been able to relate to those being such a heavily introverted thinker), but a tangible spiritual awakening of souls when they encounter Jesus “face to face.”

The answer was so simple yet so profound when I came across it—If someone is truly seeking healing (or salvation, or whatever terms we may use), Jesus heals them where they are at, regardless of the faulty systems we create to try to contain his movements. In contrast, Jesus healed me after I had been outside of what we know today as church for over 11 years!

Suddenly, another aspect of the Bible began to crystallize for me. Like Israel demanding a king when they already had God as their Sovereign, we tend to believe we are in need of a hierarchical clergy system when we already have Jesus as our direct High Priest and Shepherd. Our systems only seem to increase the gap between us and Father by eclipsing the direct relationship that was established by the Son in his incarnation and through the victory of the cross. Yet still, this doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit from working. God still works through our broken systems to bring about healing to those who believe that is where healing can be found—even if it furthers our often misguided agendas. Jesus is concerned first and foremost with bringing restoration to the broken in hopes that they will see the beauty of living in his kingdom—the kingdom that isn’t constructed by human hands.

So why don’t we all just participate in the system we have even though it’s imperfect? I’ve come to believe, through no small amount of pain, that some may be called into those systems where God leads them, as was I for a time. Likewise, I believe some may be called outside of those systems, again, where God leads them, as I now have been. However, it would seem our systems do more to inhibit the gospel—the kingdom brought near by Jesus—from spreading in the world than they do to advance it. Likewise, we get a dichotomy of in versus out that only serves to harm our witness to the watching world—where we are called to love one another. So many hurting people are seeing how much professed Christians hate each other, partially because of our “in” or “out” statuses and partially because of our rigidness. These battered souls are choosing instead to pass altogether on seeking healing if it only seeks to convert them to a “side” in that same conflict.

Our call is to humbly embrace our “in” or “out” brothers and sisters and allow those who need healing to follow the Holy Spirit to a place they can find just that. Perhaps we need more fluidity to move with the Holy Spirit as it moves like the wind to where those in need reside. Instead, the dogmas we’ve created, both inside and out, serve as walls that we are continually hindered by. This not only hurts our witness, but it keeps us from truly loving each other on a deeper, spiritual level.

This is a rough lesson God has been walking me through over the past 2.5 years on the outside, and there are still plenty of snares and diversions that seek to drag me away from pursing such love for others. Still, I believe Jesus’ Church will survive and become stronger regardless of our human attempts to bend her to our worldly agendas—whether those reside inside or outside of an institution.

The Path of Thorns

There’s no way he can worm his way out of this one! We were able to catch this woman dead to rights in the middle of adultery. I can’t wait to see the look on his face when we present her to him. If he excuses her, he will have violated the Law of Moses, and if he condemns her, he will prove that he is just like us. It’s the perfect setup! Finally, we can expose him for the fraud he is.

When we arrived at the Temple grounds, this Jesus fellow was teaching some more of his nonsense to a gathering crowd. Oh are they in for a surprise!

“Teacher,” one of my colleagues interrupted as we burst on the scene, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” As he finished his statement, I reached down and picked up the nearest rock signaling for the crowd to follow suit.

At first, Jesus looked like he had been caught off guard, but instead of fumbling for an answer, he just took a deep breath, let it out, and then knelt down to the ground. He began to draw in the sand as the watching crowd drew in a little closer to see what he might be revealing. Does he think that we’re so naive? Hah! Look at him, acting so calm and collected like he has all the answers. He’s just stalling for time!

As I glanced at what he was drawing, however, a chill suddenly shot up my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Everyone else seemed oblivious, but somehow I knew from the first few strokes what it was—a cross!

Did he know? Had he overheard? It was only an idle comment. My colleagues and I had been discussing this Jesus character a few days earlier. I jokingly made the suggestion that we could set him up so the Romans would crucify him. Had someone told him? Had he been lurking somewhere in the shadows? Or….was he….was he really from God? My heart sank and sweat began to soak my brow as I realized we may have made a terrible mistake.

Just then, one of my colleagues began demanding an answer from Jesus. Jesus stood to his feet, closed his eyes, and let out another long sigh as though he was deeply saddened. Then, he opened his eyes and looked in my direction. At first, my heart began to race, but as I looked into his face, he had a rather remorseful look about him. I couldn’t hold the gaze for long though so I looked away—right to the ground where the completed cross had been drawn. No one else seemed to have noticed since my colleague’s outburst. I began to tremble as my grip tightened on the stone in my hand. It was only a brief moment, but it felt like an eternity tormented by the situation.

“Alright,” Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” This time a bolt of lightning rushed up my spine. I was certain of it now; somehow he knew what I had said. As I hesitantly looked back up, unsure of what to do now, Jesus was looking directly at me. At first I wanted to slink to the back of the crowd, but I noticed that his demeanor had changed—now, he had the most loving expression on his face that I had ever seen. It was like he was saying that it was okay, that he wasn’t angry with me—that…that he was letting me off the hook! Again, his gaze was too pure to look at for long and tears began to well up in my eyes. As I looked down to the stone in my trembling hand, a million thoughts raced through my mind. Why would he just let me off the hook like that? Why didn’t he seek revenge? Why didn’t he tell the crowd the truth—that we….that I had suggested he be setup and crucified? How….how could he just forgive me like that? Is this how our Father really is—loving us even at our worse? What can I do now? Oh God, this is such a mess!

As all these thoughts echoed in my head, tears trickled down my face and splashed against the parched stones. What have I done!? What have I been doing with my life!? The weight of the stone began to increase exponentially. I remorsefully dropped it from my shaking hand, and it hit the ground with a loud thud. I didn’t know what to do, but I could no longer stay there. As I made my way through the crowd, I heard the people murmuring to each other. My compatriots, though, seemed quiet, but I didn’t turn back to see what their reaction was. Then, one by one, I began to hear other thuds as I was making my way out of the crowd. Others were leaving the scene right behind me, but I didn’t turn back to look. Instead, I began to disgracefully run. I ran without stopping through the streets until I reached the residence I maintained there. I rushed to my quiet place and fell to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably.

“God, please forgive me!” I yelled repeatedly. I knew I wasn’t supposed to say his name out loud, but I no longer cared if anyone overheard. My position among the religious teachers was probably forfeit already, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back anyway. Perhaps I should just move back to my hometown. At least my family is still there, and they didn’t have to witness the events of today.

As I sat there weeping, a sense of immense peace came over me that I couldn’t quite explain. I felt that somehow everything was going to be alright.


Jesus and I had a few beautiful conversations after that. I found myself drawn to his loving presence though often his words were so counter to everything I’d been taught to believe. I tried to convince him to stay away from Jerusalem, but he kept assuring me that everything was going to turn out exactly as it was supposed to. I also tried to find the woman that we had condemned to stoning, but she seemed to have disappeared—and asking around was getting me into more and more trouble. Jesus assured me that everything was going to be okay with her also, and that she had her own road to travel. I tried to trust him at his word, but it’s hard to let go of the control I thought I had for so long.

I never returned to my position in Jerusalem, though I often pleaded with some of my former colleagues to abandon their pursuance of Jesus. I spoke with Herod also insisting that Jesus really was the Messiah—the Son of God! I even petitioned Pontius Pilate not to give in to the Sanhedrin, but all was to no avail.

Now…here he is—the Messiah…our Savior—-beaten and bloody, forced to make the trek to Golgotha bearing his own cross. Tears streamed down my face as he stumbled onward, hardly able to carry the weight. I felt powerless. Is this really the path he was destined to take?

And then….he collapsed.

My heart sank as I thought of all the anguish he had already endured. I looked up to see some of my old colleagues across the way. Some looked smugly satisfied at the scene, though others looked troubled, like deep down they knew this whole charade was wrong. Was it happening to them too? Were they becoming remorseful at what was going on? Was Jesus’ love breaking through to them also?

As one of the soldiers prodded Jesus to get him on his feet again, I could no longer stand there and do nothing. As I stepped out, Nicodemus grabbed my arm and whispered harshly, “Simon, what are you doing!? You’re going to get yourself in trouble with the Romans—and the Sanhedrin—and Herod! Think about your family back in Cyrene!” As I looked at Nicodemus, tears dripping from my face, his eyes too begin to swell as he could no longer hold back the pain in his own heart. He sighed remorsefully then nodded as he loosened his grip on my arm.

As I stepped out, I placed my hands together and upright in front of me to show the Romans I had no weapons or intent of violence. I immediately caught the attention of one of the soldiers. He began to ready his spear, but then realized my composure. For a moment, he seemed a bit perplexed. He looked back to the other soldiers that were still attending to Jesus. After a brief moment’s thought, he looked at me and nodded. “You,” he stated loudly enough to catch the attention of the other guards, “come and carry this man’s cross.”

Relieved that he understood, I walked over to Jesus and placed his arm across my back and his cross on my shoulder. We then, slowly, made the agonizing trek onward to Golgotha.

Neighbor

Ridiculous! There’s no way those dirty, filthy outsiders can be considered my neighbor!

I had heard of this Jesus fellow’s teachings, so I wanted to test him to see if he really knew the Law, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

In turn, he asked me what was written in the Law, but I knew the answer to this one! Most people just think it’s hundreds of rules to be holy, but I’ve studied the deeper meaning.

“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.” I recited confidently with pride in my knowledge.

“You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Jesus stated bluntly.

Wait, he just agreed with my conclusion? What is he trying to get at? Is he implying that I’m not loving God or my neighbor? Exactly who does he think I’m not loving that I should be?

“And who is my neighbor?” I retorted. I knew he couldn’t possible expect me to love those horrid Roman invaders or all these other outsiders invading our lands.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” he began. Okay, I know that path well. It’s a rather long cliff that circles down south and then back around north to Jericho.

“and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.” he continued. Yep, I knew it, those filthy robbers, I bet they were Samaritans. Those good for nothing outsiders. They need to be driven from our land.

A slight smile creased Jesus’ face as he continued his story. Was he responding to what I was thinking? Did my expression give away my thoughts?

“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.” he said, still with a slight grin on his face. Well of course the priest couldn’t help—he has a duty to the Temple! He must remain ritually clean so he can perform the constant task of cleansing sin. If he were to touch the bloodied man, he would be doing a great disservice to the rest of Israel by shirking his sin management duties….Wait! How did the priest pass on the “other side?!” There is no “other side” on the path to Jericho! It’s a sheer cliff!

Again, Jesus with the smiling! What’s he thinking?!

“So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” he continued, still with a slight smile across his face. Yeah, of course the Levite couldn’t help either. He too would become ritually unclean and would not be able to perform his duties to the Temple and the priests….Wait! Again with the “other side” business! Does he not know the path to Jericho, or is he being intentionally facetious?! Maybe I should correct him…

Jesus, though, interrupted my thoughts as he continued, “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was.” What?! Why is he including Samaritan filth in this story?! I guess he’s going to show how cruel the Samaritan is by comparison. The priest and Levite at least had legitimate reasons for not helping. This evil Samaritan will probably torture the poor guy some more just for the fun of it.

Jesus continued on though, again interrupting my derailed thoughts, “and when he saw him, he had compassion.” He glanced in my direction, again with a grin. I could feel my blood begin to boil! How dare he say such a thing! A Samaritan of all people having compassion. He didn’t even mention the priest or Levite having compassion—they just passed right on by, avoiding the victim! As my anger continued to rise, Jesus went on to explain that the Samaritan bound up the victim’s wounds, took him to an inn, paid for his stay, and offered to cover any other expenses!

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” Jesus stated now solemn at my disposition.

I was now fuming with disgust and refused to even say the name aloud. “The one who showed mercy.” I sneered, unintentionally displaying the anger that had been building inside me.

Jesus nodded and a huge, beautiful smile erupted across his face. Suddenly my heart melted as all my anger faded away in his loving presence. I felt the tears begin to well up as his warmth gently penetrated through my core.

“You go,” he stated softly in the midst of his loving gaze, “and do likewise.”

Suddenly, it all made sense. I knew the Law, and even the deeper meaning of loving God and neighbor, but I still didn’t quite get it! Not until he showed me—my neighbor is everyone. I’ve always labeled and categorized, only loving those that I was taught I should…while hating everyone else. Yet, the Samaritan was a neighbor whereas the priest and Levite, though they were trying to uphold the laws of cleanliness, failed the spirit of the law—love!

But why would Jesus do that? I was trying to trap him, but instead of revenge, he loved me into an entirely new reality! Anyone else would have destroyed me had they gotten the upper-hand. But he…he loved me instead and showed me how to truly live—how to truly love my neighbor!

It’s true what they’ve all said—it has to be! He really is the Messiah! He really is going to change our world!