People who need help often come here, to church, when they don’t know where else to turn to. For instance, a woman may walk through these doors on a Thursday afternoon, and she is crying. She sits down and explains to me that she hasn’t had any food in a while, and she is afraid she is going to die. She explains that she is diabetic, and I can see that she is starting to shake. Its one of those scorching 100 degree afternoons. I ask her if she has been to the homeless shelter, but she doesn’t know where it is. I’m getting pretty hungry too; its about time for me to go home. Should I shrug my shoulders and tell this woman that I’m sorry, and I have to go home? No, I need to find a way to help her. You would be ashamed of me if I didn’t.
Now, I ask you, would it be any different if that woman showed up on your front doorstep? It think it would be tempting to give her a couple bucks so that she goes away, but that isn’t what God means when he tells us, “Love your neighbor as yourself?”
Jesus told a story to teach that God wants us to Love With No Limits:
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 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.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 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, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
1. Our love should have no limit.
The expert in Jewish law was really asking the wrong question. We shouldn’t be asking, “Who is my neighbor?” as if to say, “Who do I have to help, and who can I ignore without losing my place in heaven?” Jesus’ story shows us that the better question to ask is “Who can I help?” Or, “Who needs me to be a neighbor?”
Consider this story from another perspective: What if you were the man who had been robbed and left for dead? If you saw someone coming on the road, would it matter if you knew that person or not? You would be praying that this stranger might help you.
What if you were homeless? It would be nice if someone would give you a couple bucks. It would be even better if you could find someone who would treat you like family.
We may not know the person who is suffering, but you know in your heart that you should love that person like you love yourself. You can be a neighbor. You can be that person’s family.
That expert in Jewish law had asked Jesus what a person must do to inherit eternal life. You realize, don’t you, that if we have to be like that good Samaritan all the time to get into heaven, we aren’t going to get there. Your sinful nature, the grouchy old man inside of you, objects: I can’t open myself up to people like that. I don’t know that person. I don’t owe them anything. They should have taken better care of themselves, like I did. Besides, I can’t help everyone. “
No one loves God perfectly. No one loves without limit every time there is someone who needs help. We aren’t going to get into heaven that way. Actually, that selfish old grouch inside of us deserves hell.
This is where we need to remember that Jesus was not telling this story to show us how we are going to get into heaven. He was showing us how God wants us to love. And this is where I will remind you where this “Good Samaritan” kind of love comes from. It is God who loved us first.
2. God’s love has no limit.
God is never too busy. It’s never too much trouble for him. It’s never one too many prayers for him to answer; never one too many sins for him to forgive.
You might think of Jesus as our “Good Samaritan.” I know he wasn’t a Samaritan, but he did see us spiritually dead on the side of the road—hopelessly unable to do what it takes to get into heaven. He came down to us to pick us up and clean up our wounds—He forgives our sins, and gives us a new start and a new life with God. He carries us along our way to make sure we get into heaven with him, just like that Good Samaritan carried the wounded man to the inn. Jesus has stopped at nothing to make sure that we will get into heaven.
The great thing now, for us, is that there is no limit to the number of brand new starts that God gives us. Yes, that grouchy old man inside drags us down, but we always have a fresh start in Jesus to get up and love perfectly again, without limits.
Lets make it our goal here to love with no limit. We want people to know God’s love. Don’t just tell them. Show them, by imitating God’s “Good Samaritan” way that God loves you.
Look around you. Treat these people like family. This is something I see many of you doing. Let’s all do it, and do it better. When you talk to each other over coffee and donuts, sit by new people. Don’t just talk about yourself; ask questions. Be interested in the person you are talking to. Show them that you care. If you find out that person is hurting or in need, don’t just shrug your shoulders and say “I’m sorry to hear that.” Listen, care, and do whatever you can to help. Be like that Good Samaritan. Love with no limits. Amen.