Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership
Jesus Came Near So We Can Be Near
By Evan Nehring
I woke up this morning thinking about baby Jesus in the manger a bit differently. When I think of the traditional nativity scene, which character am I? Yes, we come to worship the Christ child, but Jesus grew up to call us to be followers, disciples. He set the example and called us to be, well, Jesus to our world. There can only be one Jesus Christ. I'm not starting a new religion. But he left heaven to come to earth as a baby. He broke into our world. He came near. He calls us to be near those around us, our neighbors, our near ones.
When people asked Jesus, who is my neighbor, my near one…
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.
A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
"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." (Luke 10:30-37, NIV)
The injured man was ignored by people we thought would have cared. He was cared for by a despised stranger, a Samaritan, detested by the Jews.
His enemy saved his life! Jesus details all the Samaritan does to save the man--six actions in all.
- He comes up to the man,
- binds his wounds,
- anoints him with oil to comfort him,
- loads him on his mule,
- takes him to an inn and
- cares for him, even paying for his whole stay.
And Jesus’ whole point with the story is not “Who is my legal responsibility?” but “To whom will I open my heart and life?” Jesus' point is, simply be a neighbor. Be a near one. Don’t specialize in self-righteous purity that walls you off from real people. There’s a neighbor, a coworker or another near one that could use a friend like you.
It’s true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And caring about someone means caring about what they care about. If they’re not asking questions about eternal life, maybe it’s because they've figured out that church people aren't interested in:
- knowing their name
- getting to know their family
- knowing where they live and work, and how that’s going for them
- finding out what they’re passionate about
- what fulfills them, what stresses them out
- what they've accomplished in their life, and what they’re still working on
And some of our near ones are beat up and alone in one way or another, and we don’t understand why they aren't responding to the four spiritual laws. The question is: Who will you love as a near one?
It doesn't really matter which guy was attacked and beaten and which guy was the rescuer. What we see is a picture of mercy.
Have you figured out who I'm called to be in the nativity scene? It's Jesus. First we worship him, then we imitate him. He came near so we can be near.