A close friend of mine was describing an interfaith Bible study she had been invited to attend. One of the rules was that they were not to talk about anything controversial. I couldn’t begin to comprehend how that would happen. “You know, we talk about loving your neighbor and stuff.”
Maybe I’m just resistant.
Maybe I’m just a rebel.
There is no way to engage unbelievers with the Bible and not have the conversation drip with offense.
I assume “loving your neighbor” means the parable of the Good Samaritan. A story born through the pains of controversy.
“And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”” (Luke 10:25-29 NASB)
The Good Samaritan is not about how to love our neighbor. It’s not even about who our neighbor is. The Good Samaritan is all about our inability to justify ourselves.
Without the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit we can’t love anyone the way God requires. And even with His aid, we can’t help every person, every time, the way Jesus would. This lawyer wanted to live by the law, and instead, he was condemned by it. If he truly understood what Christ was saying, he would have fallen to his knees before the eternal God made flesh and cried out, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner!” And Jesus would have overwhelmed him with grace.
There it is, the offensive gospel, sitting right in the middle of a kid’s children’s church story.
Jesus was not a moral teacher. His words are not innocuous enough to be good suggestions for humanity. His every breath and step frothed and boiled with offensive, life-saving gospel.
And so should every breath and step of ours. Yes, we should love our neighbors. Yes, we should recognize that everyone is our neighbor. But ultimately we must confront Jesus Christ, and decide whether we live by law or by grace. Do we love by law or by grace?
I wouldn’t follow the rules. It is not until we are offended by Jesus, offended by the contrast between His perfection and our disaster, that we can truly receive eternal life. I couldn’t play along. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. Not when the souls of my neighbors are at stake.