Likeness Over Differences

You don’t need to look too hard to find evidence that we are living in a sinful world. Even those of us who are Christians, regularly referred to as saints in New Testament letters, struggle with sin. A quick glance at the headlines or turn on social media quickly confirms this. Too often I’m convicted by my own selfishness and reminded of Paul’s instruction to the believers in Philippi: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

The parable of the Good Samaritan, though told 2,000 years ago, is a timeless reminder of the high value God places on compassion. We are taught by Jesus that despite the myriad of differences we may have with one another, we are alike in the one most important way: each person is created in God’s image.

So, how do we keep the cacophony of culture from drowning out the sweet dulcet sounds of the Gospel? How then does the Gospel constrain us when it comes to showing compassion to others?

The Gospel tells us that we’re sinners in need of the cleansing, all-sufficient blood of Christ. The Gospel, when received with a thankful heart, compels us to show the same grace to others that God has shown to us in Jesus. It is important to understand that the Gospel not only saves us, but also empowers us to follow the most holy commands: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

The good news of Jesus living a sinless life on earth, being crucified without guilt, buried without His own tomb, and raised again by His own Word transforms the guiltiest of hearts into Christ-honoring, love-bearing, neighbor-serving ambassadors of heaven’s Gift on earth.

How then should we respond to the story of the Good Samaritan?

I encourage you to spend some time in the attached study guide written by Pastor Jamin Roller. If you make it through one page per day, you’ll have spent 5 days studying the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“All of us carry biases and divisions within us. It’s part of what it means to be sinful people in a broken world, but Jesus came to free us from that bondage so that we can walk in the freedom of loving in a way that displays God’s love for us.”

Read through the rest of the study guide here.

 

Wonder

Wonder

Wonder. It’s a concept that seems to come naturally to children. For those of us who are Jesus followers, life should be a constant exploration of wonder. Author Mark Buchanan writes, “God intends the holy life be an odyssey of wonder” (Things Unseen). It’s a concept easily lost, however, especially as one gets older. The wonder of God, of life with Him, wanes with time. The demands and cares of life slowly erode that childlike sense of wonder. Even Bible teaching can lack the transcendent sense of wonder when it gets reduced to propositions and information. Eugene Peterson writes, “…no matter how much knowledge we acquire, if we fail to cultivate wonder we risk missing the very heart of what is going on” (Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places).

That said, how do we avoid missing the very heart of what’s going on? Two thoughts to share. The most obvious place to cultivate wonder of God is in Scripture. We need to train ourselves to look for His wonder in all of Scripture. We are used to reading for information, but do we ask God to also reveal to us wonder? How does any given text, mundane though it may appear, contain evidence of God’s wonder and His amazing ways of working and moving? I can’t help but think that God’s wonder fills every page, even every word, of Scripture. Our responsibility is to search for it. That involves praying, asking the Spirit’s help in seeing the wonder behind the words, stories and teaching. This is a learned process. It won’t always be quick or easy. Still, I’m convinced that heaven will be an experience of never-ending wonder. Shouldn’t earth help prepare us for that? May we passionately pray for and seek the wonder of God in Scripture and in the events of our lives.

The second sphere of wonder exploration is life itself. It’s prayerfully training our eyes to look for wonder as we move through our days. Children do this naturally. It doesn’t take much to capture their attention… a puddle to play in, the wind blowing leaves around, a kitten to pet. Wonder comes easily. While we do live in a world marred by sin, God’s wonder is not eradicated. That which God repeatedly labeled as ‘good’ on the days of creation is still around. Do we take enough time to revel in the beauty of a sunset? As we are eating, do we actually notice the various tastes and textures of that which we ingest? When was the last time we took time to notice the various shades of green in creation or the different colors in flowers? This, too, requires a level of intentionality. It’s a willingness to observe… then thank the God who created such wonders.

May we be passionate wonder seekers. May we look for the wonder of God as we read His word. May we look for His fingerprints as we move throughout our days. May we increasingly see His wonder even in the ‘ordinary’ aspects of life.