As Christian’s, there is a general sentiment of generosity and exercising magnanimity with those in proximity to ourselves. But, in examining the highly regarded story of the Good Samaritan in the gospel of Luke, we gather critical insight on how love and generosity is demonstrated with respect to reasonable boundaries. How can followers love well while navigating around codependency? Through the model that Jesus lays out in his moral imagination, love is defined within limits and boundaries that encourages flourishing without the over-responsibility of codependency or sacrificing the calling that God has placed in each of us.
Letting people be themselves is mistakenly understood as a form of love because we don't like to receive feedback. So instead of getting involved in other peoples' messes, we resort to pitying others because it abdicates ourselves from the moral responsibility to help them. But unlike pity which seeks relief, love is committed to the greater good of others. Though people lack the courage to deal with personal responsibility to a point where cowardice to act is systemic, Jesus addresses the woman taken in adultery with love and courage.
In our COVID-ravaged, politically polarized, and racially divided times, such sources of stress are often used to capitalize on our human nature and physiological responses to our fears. We look to empathy as a solution to quell these surfacing fears, but while empathy can certainly be used as a tool for positive purposes, it can also be mistaken for love. Empathy is a tool that allows us to connect with one another, but unlike love, it is more moral imagination than it is moral imperative. In this cultural moment, while the world is choking on vitriol, uncertainty, and animosity, we turn to Christ, who is the person of mercy and the true source of love for a community called to generosity and kindness.
In a world where we are quick to define people by their darkest hours and their mistakes, we tend to assume that our lives cannot be anything more than stories of error and failure. However, the good news of the gospel offers a different trajectory for our lives: one of transformation and redemption. When we examine ourselves and our lives through the lens of Christ rather than through a worldly or internal lens, we see hope, for our worst moments are exactly what the Father uses to write the most powerful parts of our stories. If we refuse to give into narratives of shame and failure, if we are honest with ourselves and with others about the fallen places we start from, and if we allow that honesty to drive us to love and follow Christ, then our lives become part of the Father's grand narrative, which is an eternal story of endless grace.
The Christian faith is often depicted as an elimination diet, wherein people carry the notion that salvation is a product of expunging their weaknesses and sin for the sake of perfection. Thereby, what it means to be Christian is ultimately associated with an unrelatable, picture-perfect faith that many hopeful believers try to imitate, only to fall victim to impostor syndrome. However, the silver lining that resides in the human conflict between flesh and spirit reveals that development of a genuine faith is a process involving our struggle with our natural proclivities and our need for grace. An authentic faith models our necessity for Christ. The gospel saves us, not because we are able to achieve any semblance of perfection by our own doing, but because from where we stand and just the way we are, the true hero of the story finds and saves us time and time again.
Most of us distrust leaders of large institutions like the church because the spirit of our age is about defining people by moments of failure. We expect perfection from those in power, and our shattered ideals cause us to become more punitive towards our leaders. But looking through a gospel lens, we learn that the early church was not about perfection, but about direction, wherein Jesus selected failures to lead the church in order to redeem and shape them into saints. In this light, God's grace, generosity, and redemption helps us understand that we are placing our trust not in our own brokenness, but in God's power to transform people.
One common denominator amongst all of humanity is that we encounter disappointment in others. When we carry expectations and hold people in high regards, coming to terms with our shattered ideals could be difficult. However, being let down by others' shortcomings helps us recalibrate reality and elevate the treasure of Christ where he rightfully belongs. Christ above others helps us not only forgive others and ourselves in the face of our disappointment, but also helps to keep the purpose of ministry in perspective.
Dr. Darrell Johnson, Teaching Fellow at Regent College, joins us this week with an exposition on the character of God, the Shameless Father. In this sermon, Dr. Johnson offers insight on why the believer’s relationship with prayer is key to our relationship with the Father and how in our prayer, our reception of the Holy Spirit is at play. Through the Parable of the Friend at Midnight found in the book of Luke, Jesus reveals to us an assurance found in the character of God who would never put his people and his name to shame and that those who ask, seek, and knock on the door of the one inside the house shall receive, find, and will be welcomed in.
In diverse communities, certain traditions, perspectives, and cultural norms start to influence one another. This is why there are often differences among people within the church. But though these differences define how we understand ourselves and others, sometimes it can create tension within the church. And sometimes, these disagreements can gain too much importance. When we forget Christ's message of unity and let our differences define and divide us, we run the risk of losing a community that's united by a shared goal of loving each other and growing together in Christ.
The overarching motif that captures the central aim of the church and the believer’s faith expression is to love our neighbors as ourselves. However, each of our faith journeys demonstrate a fundamental tension between our default humanity and the new creation we find in Christ: the original sin that resides in our flesh and the grip of the fruit of the spirit borne out of redemption. In our spiritual lives, the organic process of life change is not only evident in how we impact our relationships, but evidence of the work of the Spirit who aims to love and bless our friends and family through our own transformation. When we acknowledge the saving grace of Jesus and experience the redemption of our default nature, the fruit that scripture unveils manifest and blesses others and ourselves.