January 16, 2013

Accepting Grace

My mother had a difficult time being served. She had a servant’s heart and felt as if she should be helping everyone. When it came time to receive ministry from others, she struggled with that. 

Others struggle to receive help because of extreme pride and independence. Like the child who says, “I’ll do it myself” this has often kept me from receiving help from people, even from God. I thought of this pride and of my mother’s struggles as I read again the story of the Good Samaritan.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. (Luke 10:30–34)

Jesus focused on the Samaritan in this story, but I thought about the man in the ditch. He may have also been a Samaritan, but Jesus didn’t identify him as one nor did He explain any other reason for the Levite and priest to avoid this victim. The story suggests they were simply too preoccupied with their own agendas to stop and help him.

Whatever their reasons, the Samaritan, hated by all Jews, went beyond what most would do. How did this victim feel about being served by someone that he probably hated? It takes humility to served, but it also takes humility to be served. That is one lesson to remember.

The other lesson is that the actions of the Samaritan point to the heart of Jesus. For this, I will quote the thoughts of the author of today’s devotional reading:

The Samaritan came just where the man was and handled him where he lay battered…. Think of the Incarnation. It was the Son of God seeing human need and coming in mercy where humans were, not speaking from high heaven, not casting down a scroll out of eternity. No, this is the glory of the Incarnation, that when people were bruised and battered by their sin, Christ, the Son of God, the good Samaritan, came just where they were. Show me where folk are lying ill at home, and I can show you Jesus there. Show me where hearts are crying out in darkness, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and I can show you Jesus there. Where people have suffered, Jesus Christ has suffered. Where people have toiled, Jesus Christ has toiled. Where people have wept, Jesus Christ has wept. Where people have died, Jesus Christ has died. He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows and made his grave with the wicked. Christ was genial, kindly, and accessible, a lover of human haunts, the friend of publicans and sinners. Simon Peter was busy with his nets, and Christ came where he was. Matthew was seated at the tax collector’s booth, and Christ came to him. The poor demoniac was in the graveyard and our good Samaritan came exactly where he was. (George H. Morrison, Take Heart: Daily Devotions With the Church's Great Preachers. Kregel Publications, 2001)

Thinking back over my years of being a Christian, I also testify to this amazing reality. Jesus promised to be with me always, and He has been. No matter where I’ve gone or what I am experiencing, He is here. He has been with me in my greatest sorrows and highest joys. He has cried and laughed with me. He never stands far off and shakes an accusing finger at me when I’ve failed. Instead, He puts His arms around me and picks me up to start again. He gently pulls me off my pedestal or other wrong paths that I take, points me in the right direction but also walks that way with me. As the devotional writer says, “Just As I Am” is a gracious hymn, but I’d love to sing another one: “Just where I am, O Lamb of God, you come.”

Putting today’s two thoughts together, how much better to yield to His gracious ministry to my needs and how foolish I have been whenever I’ve said to my forever Helper and Friend, “No thanks, I’ll do it by myself.”

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