SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Jesus Calls Us to Offer “Love without End Amen” to Others
Key Verse: 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. – Luke 10:27
“Radical” is only way to describe the kind of love Jesus calls us to offer others. What God desires is that we love him as fully and completely as possible, and love our neighbor as deeply as we love ourselves. To love like that is a radical departure from the world’s insistence that we “look out for Number One.”
Is it easy to love God with all your heart? No, even when we want to, for we are prone to idolatry and to love ourselves more than we love God. We like to talk about loving God but fleshing it out in daily life is extremely challenging. Instead of doing what God desires of us, we ask God to bless what we desire.
Rather than do what we know God wills, we ask him to do our will. We tell him what we want to do for him rather than submit to what he wants to do in us and for us. The result is that most of us “play” God more than we love God. This explains why our prayers are almost totally our “telling” God and hardly any “listening” to God.
In his encounter with the lawyer, Jesus makes it impossible to separate loving God from loving one’s neighbor. Jesus cemented the two together with Super Glue in a bonding that is eternal. The acid test, then, as to whether we love God is this: have we shown mercy to our neighbor?
Confronted with this, we respond as the lawyer did, by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded by telling what we call the story of the Good Samaritan. No doubt the lawyer was shocked by the story, for Jesus made a despised Samaritan the hero who showed mercy. Such an idea was repulsive to the Jews, who hated the Samaritans.
So who is my neighbor? Any person whose need I have the power to meet. Anyone in need of mercy is my neighbor, no matter the person’s race or nationality.
The sad reality is that far too many of us ignore the need of our neighbor, assuming that one of our social agencies will handle it. We avoid getting our hands dirty by referring the needy person to social services. This may indeed be the best way to provide help for some people even though I suspect Jesus expects us to provide a personal touch – caring love and encouragement. Love usually demands that we become personally involved in our deeds of love and mercy, extending to our neighbors much more than groceries and a night’s lodging.
A man came off the street into my study one day, having asked to see “the preacher.” I did not ask him to sit down; his smell was unsettling and I was busy with “church work.” I asked, “Can I help you?” His reply was quite unexpected. “Pastor,” he said wearily, “I hope you can. I am not here to ask for money or food. I am not asking for a place to stay; I can sleep in my old car again tonight. What I need is hope. I am at the end of my rope. I am willing to work if I can find a job. I am desperate to find someone who will believe in me, and trust me, and help me make a new start.”
The man seemed so genuine that I asked him to sit down. We talked for an hour and I prayed with him, asking the Lord to give him hope for a new life. Then I found him a place to spend the night and made an appointment to see him the next morning. Again he seemed sincere. I made several telephone calls and soon found him a job. Given a chance, he began to earn his keep, and gradually made a comeback. Over the next several years the man became a respected member of the community and a devout Christian.
One day years after we first met, the man came to see me. He recalled the day he had come into the church to see me. He told me, “That day I was so distraught that I had decided to commit suicide. If you had turned me away, as many others had already done, I planned to kill myself. But you saved my life by taking an interest in me. You gave me the hope to hold on another day, and God has helped me to make a new life for myself.”
Then he embraced me with a hug that I will never forget. I know that many times I have failed to offer mercy to the neighbors God has put in my path. I pray for forgiveness and for eyes to see the opportunities that I have to offer mercy to anyone Christ wants me to love.
“I got sent home from school one day
With a shiner on my eye.
Fighting was against the rules
And it didn’t matter why.
When Dad got home I told the story
Just like I’d rehearsed
And I stood there on those trembling knees
And waited for the worst.
And he said
Let me tell you a secret
About a father’s love
A secret that my Daddy said
Was just between us.
Daddy’s don’t just love their children
Ever now and then.
It’s a love without end Amen.”
Jesus calls us to a radical kind of love, “a love without end Amen,” to persons in need. Only such love for our neighbors will verify our love for God.
+ + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)