The following is a guest article from Matthew Webster* (view the original article on Matthew’s blog). We thought it was a good take integrating relational-ness and relentless-ness into how you reach others. Share your thoughts below the article!
The word balance brings several thoughts to mind. Studying accounting in college reminds me all too quickly of a balance sheet. Assets have to be equal to liabilities and owner’s equity; if they don’t equal, we have an issue. How about a balance beam? I’m certainly no gymnast, but I have seen enough of the Olympics to know that if you don’t maintain your balance on the beam, you’ll be on the floor! How those people can jump and flip and twist while managing to stay on that 4 inch-wide beam, blows my mind! Balance is crucial. In the same way, in almost every facet of life, we need equilibrium.
Jesus believed in equilibrium. The greatest command He gave was to love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:36-38), right? If that were the only command, we could just call it quits right here. I’d hit my knees, grasp my Bible for dear life, pray and sing praises from sun up to sun down, renounce every single person in my life, and spend the rest of every waking moment in the presence of the Lord. I would be in constant meditation, study, adoration, and worship of the King.
This would also make me a hermit.
Now, if this is what God wanted from me, I would have no problem with it. One day around the throne of my Lord, I can imagine nothing less than praising Him around the clock. I need nothing else. He is worthy. He deserves my undivided attention. But, this is not the only thing He commands of us here on the earth. It may be the greatest command, but it is not the only command. Jesus says that all the Law and Prophets can be summed up with that and one other, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is two-fold. Everything ever commanded in the Law can be summed up in those two commands.
Let’s recall a familiar passage in Luke, the Good Samaritan. Luke 10:25-37 says,
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “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 love your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
We see many things from this passage, but there are two things I want to elaborate on. First, what does love look like? Real love goes beyond all reason. For the Samaritan to even acknowledge the Jew on the road in his distress is amazing. To actually wash his wounds and clean him up is off the charts. If the story ended there, we would think the Samaritan a hero. He didn’t stop there. He took the helpless man into town to find care for him. Amazing! Above and beyond what was asked. Still, it doesn’t end there. He finds the man somewhere to stay and even pays for the stay. Verse 35 explains that not only did he take care of his immediate need, he promised to return to meet any further expenses! This love shown was far greater than we could humanly expect. By the world’s standards, the Samaritan would have been hailed “humanitarian of the year” for even stopping and checking on the man. GOD HAS DIFFERENT STANDARDS. God has holy standards.
Second, who is my neighbor? Everyone. Everyone is my neighbor. Obviously, if a friend or family member were the helpless, robbed, beaten man on the side of the road, we would be compassionate toward them and meet their need. Jesus explains that this helpless, robbed, beaten man was a cultural enemy of the Samaritan. These men were not friends. They were not family. They would not have any kind of relationship outside of this event. It is culturally unthinkable for these two to be on the lookout for one another. This is the LAST person on earth the Samaritan would choose to help. What Jesus shows here is that your neighbor could be your boss, your doctor, your wife’s third cousin, the bag boy at the grocery store, a farmer, a teacher, a bus-driver, a Christian, a Muslim, a Jehovah’s witness, your childhood nemesis, the man who gave you a mean look while standing in line at the restaurant, or even a complete enemy. Need takes precedents.
Jesus shows us what real love looks like and who we are to show this kind of love to. This means love of the holy nature to anyone and everyone, even enemies. I am blown away when I read this passage. No one but God could have come up with this stuff. The lawyer, attempting to test Jesus, is now shown what the command of ‘love your neighbor’ looks like in action.
Let’s not stop with verse 37. Much overlooked directly after this parable is 10:38-42.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus illustrates furthermore that just loving your neighbor is not what He commands. Jesus demands balance. Here is Martha, welcoming people into her home, making them comfortable, running herself ragged to serve them. In her frustration she tells Jesus to make Mary help her. Mary is too busy listening to Jesus. Jesus tells Martha that it is Mary who made the right choice. How can this be? Martha is slaving. Martha is LOVING HER NEIGHBOR. Isn’t this what Jesus commands?
Martha is missing the forest for all the trees. Here is perfect and blameless Jesus, God right in front of her, but her only concern is taking care of guests. Remember Jesus’ words about John the Baptist’s disciples that fast and Jesus’ that do not? Jesus says:
“You can’t make the wedding guests fast while the Groom is with them, can you? But the time will come when the Groom will be taken away from them – then they will fast in those days.” Luke 5:34-35
Luke shows us polar opposites in these two stories. In the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are too caught up in trying to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength that they miss out on an opportunity to experience God through loving their neighbor. Martha, on the other hand, is too busy trying to love her neighbor that she misses God right in her midst. Jesus is trying to show us that we can idolize His commands and emphasize one more than others. There is a reason Luke accounts these two stories back-to-back.
So, what needs balance in your life? For me recently, the struggle has been all too real. My focus has been trying to love God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength that I have forgotten that He also commands me to love people. Time spent with the Lord in study and worship consume all my time. This may seem impossible to understand, but my faith has seemed to grow stagnant. How could it be possible to have your faith grow cold when you spend all your time with the Lord? James 2:15-17 says,
“If a brother of sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but don’t give him what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”
I don’t want my faith to die. Here I am clinging to life that is fleeting fast, dying because of my gluttony. I take in so much of the Word, but never give myself away! My faith in the Lord needs to be exercised. I feel in our evangelical circles that we lack balance. When it comes to following the commands of Christ, we are quick to tell people the Good News and preach the Gospel to all creation, but we are forgetting instruction on taking care of the poor and orphaned and widowed. We are not much better off than the priest or Levite from the story of the Good Samaritan. We may not walk past or turn a blind eye, but pretty much. I feel as if we would tell that hopeless, helpless, afflicted, down-trodden, beaten, robbed man the Good News about Jesus’ perfect atonement for our sin, and even theologically sound for that matter, but completely disregard his immediate physical need. We wonder why people call us hypocrites! The Christian life is not only about evangelism.
There are orphans and widows and homeless and hungry all around our cities, but we are too busy evangelizing them to see their need. I’m guilty of this. It is a cop out for me to tell someone a few good words rather than to really give myself in service to them, to really love them. Hungry people don’t need a kind word, they need food. Homeless people don’t want your words, they want a roof. We are very quick to tell people the Gospel, but we are often slow to show people the Gospel. Don’t forget where Jesus spent His time and who He spent His time with. He spent just as much time teaching His disciples as He did getting His hands dirty with the least of these. Jesus is the perfect balance. Should you stop evangelizing? Absolutely not! But, evangelism will be much more effective when the listener’s focus isn’t on their afflictions. Don’t ignore your neighbor’s need. I challenge you to find some tangible way to help the hurting people around you. Build relationships. Give your time to people, not just money in the offering plate. Show your neighbor the love of Christ.
*“This article reflects the views of the author. It is being distributed by Dare 2 Share to spur dialogue and challenge youth leaders to mobilize their students to reach their generation for Christ.“
If you lost your ability to speak or evangelize, would people be able to tangibly see the Gospel lived out in your life? Through your actions? Would they know you to be a follower of Jesus? Making disciples goes much further than simply evangelizing.