During a war, one or both sides will spread propaganda. Maybe television or radio stations will be taken over or leaflets dropped out of an airplane. Whatever tactic is used, the goal is to turn the people against their government. Good military people know that when interpersonal relationships are destroyed, an organization becomes very weak.
I guess I probably do not have to tell you how this applies to churches. We are engaged in a fierce battle against a very powerful enemy who knows what works and what doesn’t. And propaganda works.
Think about it for a minute. As a church, we can have a nice building, great organization, and the power of God. But what will we accomplish if we can’t get along? You may have heard it said that “love is the glue that holds everything together.” In many cases, that is true.
Have you ever tried to pick up a piece of particle board that has been soaked in water? If left long enough, it will become mush. The reason is that particle board is simply a mixture of leftover wood chips held together by glue. When the glue dissolves, all you have is a sloppy mess. It has no strength.
Love is the glue that holds relationships together. To hold relationships together, it must be strong. So, what does love look like?
I suppose I could give you a 10-point list of all the things you should do to show love. However, it may be more beneficial to consider an example of love in action.
In the tenth chapter of Luke, a lawyer asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus knew that the lawyer was trying to set a trap, so He responded with a question of His own. In essence He said, “You’re a lawyer. You know the Law. What does it say?”
The lawyer must have been expecting this response, because he had a pretty good answer ready. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 NKJV).
Apparently this guy was a good Lawyer. He knew his stuff.
Jesus, of course, knew that the answer was correct, but He was not yet finished. “OK. You have given the right answer. Now go and do it and you will live.”
This is where it gets confusing. Is Jesus removing faith from the equation and saying that this guy could be saved through his works?
Think about what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you could do this all of the time you would be perfect and have no need of salvation.
Jesus was showing this guy that the best the Law had to offer was not enough.
Of course, the lawyer was taken aback. Maybe faces of people that he passed every day flashed into his mind. People who were hard to love.
He got to thinking. Wait a minute. If I can only inherit eternal life by loving my neighbor, I better get a definition of “neighbor.”
He wanted to “justify himself.” Imagine this. There were people all around—maybe some who know that this guy had many enemies. He has to save face. Who is my neighbor? Surely you can’t count everybody!
When my oldest son Austin was very little, he saw an episode of the old show “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” When I asked him how he liked it, he solemnly said “He’s sad because he doesn’t have a neighbor.” Poor Mister Rogers.
Jesus had a decision to make here. He could have started to list potential “neighbors,” but that would take a while. Instead, Jesus told him a story commonly known as the “Good Samaritan.”
In verse thirty, Jesus describes a solitary Jew traveling to Jericho from Jerusalem. In those days, traveling was very unsafe. There were plenty of places for robbers to hide in the mountainous terrain. As a result, the traveler was robbed, stripped, wounded, and left half-dead along the path.
It wasn’t long before a priest came sauntering down the road. As soon as he saw the man lying in his own blood, he crossed the street and continued on his journey. Next came a Levite. His curiosity drove him to look at the wounded man, but then he also continued on down the road.
The sad part is that the priest and the Levite were supposed to be the “spiritual leaders.” You would think they would stop to help the guy, but they were too busy with their own agendas.
Then a Samaritan came by. The Samaritans were half-Jews who had assimilated paganism into their religion. They were considered scum by the Jews. This Samaritan did what the priest and Levite refused to do. He stopped to help the wounded man.
Wait a minute. The Samaritan is the good guy? That is the point Jesus is making. The lawyer was trying to weasel out of showing love to others. However, this low-life Samaritan was willing to do it. The message was clear—even those you don’t like are your neighbors.
The lawyer knew about love because he read about it in the Law. The same would have been true for the priest and the Levite. The Samaritan, however, knew about love because he practiced it. The Samaritan was being a good neighbor.
While Jesus’ purpose in this story was to convince the lawyer that even those he didn’t like (the Samaritan) should be included in his list of neighbors, we can learn some excellent things about love from the Good Samaritan. If we can apply these to our interpersonal relationships, the glue that holds our bond together will be strong.
#1 – Make the decision to love
Each of the three men who passed by that day had to make a decision. Would they show love to this man or not?
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul rebukes them for their squabble over which spiritual gifts are to be preferred. At the end of the infamous “love chapter,” he reminds them that “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (I Corinthians 13:13 NKJV).
Maybe the emphasis was put on love because no matter what gifts Christians have, the church is stuck in the mud without love. Love is the nuts and bolts that hold it all together.
#2 – Be willing to sacrifice
I am not sure why the priest and the Levite refused to help their wounded countryman, but I suspect they were afraid of becoming defiled. What if the man died? Under the Jewish Law, touching a corpse would make a person unclean. They were just not willing to take that chance.
Interpersonal relationships carry a risk. You will find that you are hurt worse by those closest to you. Real love doesn’t worry about that. It focuses on the best of the other person regardless of risk.
#3 – Be willing to accept the cost
The Samaritan used his own supplies to care for the injured man. He also donated money for his care and promised more if needed. Additionally, he gave up his valuable time. True love carries a price.
#4 – Remove the limits of your love
We may consider how we treat our friends and think that we are people of love. True love, however, goes beyond our friends. In Jesus’ story, a Samaritan is showing love to a Jew. That just is not supposed to happen.
The Good Samaritan serves as a model of love. He made the decision, sacrificed, accepted the cost, and loved even one who did not like him.
If we loved like that in our families and churches, don’t you think we would be much stronger for it?
This is the eighteenth post in the “Battle for Your Mind” series. To see the previous one, click here.
Click here to view the next post, “The Battle for Your Happiness.”