Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Loving Their Neighbors - Jon and Marisa

Jon and Marisa Foltz with their two cute little kids Collin and Summer are in their 2nd year of leading a team in Chiang Mai Thailand at Rajabhat University. Like several others, they attended the training in 05 but were unable to be there last summer.

The Foltz's and their team are preparing right now for the US summer project that will arrive in a week. Jon says, “We are excited to see how God will us them this summer. They will arrive just as our Thailand campuses are opening for the new school year so it'll be great to have them on campus sharing Christ with students right from the start.”

Around the first of last month, they had their own project. A group of 23 Americans, 30 Thais and many of the Mogen people worked together on a Tsunami Relief Project down on the island of Ranong. The Project was able to get a foundation for 7 homes on the island! It was the first time that Rajabhat University was able to have our own "mission trip" and the students were all able to put into action their faith.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. (Luke 10:25-37) Expert in the law? “I will take Levitical Code for 500, Alex.” Okay being an expert in law is not necessarily bad. Someone who loves the word and can rightly divide it is a good thing. Jesus was an expert in the law. But Luke points out the guy’s motives so he comes across as just one of those people who like to argue about the bible to show how much they know to make themselves look good. Note to self: want to quiz someone on the word of God, pick someone not named the Word of God. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.

This expert has it down. He is able to summarize the whole OT in the same way Jesus did to another expert sent to test him. But this expert, wanting to justify himself, asks, “(Okay if I am to go from here and love my neighbor) Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a story that we all know. There are three key people in this parable. Okay, more if you count the wounded guy, robbers and innkeeper I guess. Jesus is setting the stage for a comparison/contrast. Either that or it was an opening to a joke, “Three men walked along a road, a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan…”

The first two: a priest and Levite were experts in the law. They knew that if they touched this guy and he died they would be ceremonially unclean. Perhaps they were going in the direction toward Jerusalem and this wasn't in their target area. Maybe they were afraid of getting attacked and left half dead themselves. But we do know that these two experts in the law passed on the other side. In avoiding to help the wounded man, they went out of their way.

Then there’s the Samaritan. One angle we can’t deny in this comparison/contrast is the ethnic difference. But I wonder if the point Jesus is really trying to make with this expert in the law is the theological difference. Samaritans were anything but experts in the Law. Theirs was a theological hodge-podge. The Samaritans worshipped what they didn’t know. He would have lost on Theological Jeopardy, baby.

But… he loved his neighbor as himself. He had compassion. In helping this guy, he went out of his way. He didn’t just stop, he stopped everything. He didn’t just give, he gave above and beyond. He loved his neighbor as himself.

Wilfred Grenfell who was a missionary to Iceland… oh a 100 years ago… said once, “I believe that the Good Samaritan went across the road to the wounded man just because he wanted to”. I think what old Wilfred was saying is that it wasn’t like some clarion call to go, it was just because he saw the need and was moved by compassion.

Dr. Martin Luther King in the powerful, prophetic speech he gave the day before he was assassinated points out that the “the first question the Levite (and priest) asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

It wasn’t like he had some grand evangelistic strategy to run an inn along the road; he just was moved by compassion and showed mercy. He didn’t have it all together, he just responded in a love that is at the very heart of the gospel. God so loved the world that he gave... If you and I (I am mostly preaching to myself here) truly have been transformed by this life – this eternal life – of knowing this merciful all-giving God who sacrificially loves us and the whole world, should we not have mercy too? Should we not stop - even on our 'ministry' path we are heading down - and love our neighbor as we love ourselves? If my faith is not dead but alive, should I not be merciful and my faith be accompanied by action?

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

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