The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. Jesus teaches them who they are praying to.
We are not praying to a reluctant friend. We are not praying to an evil father. We are praying to our Heavenly Father who provides us bread, protects us from evil, and gives the best gift (Himself).
Prayer is less about how and more about who.
*Word Count: 64
“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”
And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
So, here’s a question: who is my neighbor?
Who is my neighbor when I hardly speak to my literal neighbors, the people who live in homes on either side of me, when I find out one was in the hospital for almost a month because she had lung cancer and I hadn’t even noticed she was gone?
Who is my neighbor when I go through my workday, say hi to other people with a smile and route small-talk, see a student crying saying she had a hard weekend, and that’s why she didn’t have her work done, but class must go on?
Who is my neighbor when I rarely call my own friends and family, even though I have a phone within reach almost every second of the day, and time here and there to drop a line (but I would rather just be in my own head and do my own thing, waste time online, etc.)?
This is the way a lot of us live our lives. We say we would stop and take care of the broken man on the side of the road like the Good Samaritan did, and yet it’s very easy to live lives that are cordoned off, focused on our little lives, creating deep lines of separation. It’s American, right? We help people at a distance, sometimes, but ultimately, it’s every person for him/herself.
And it can be a little bit distressing and upsetting when we exist on this plane: when disaster strikes somewhere far away affecting hundreds of people, we click our tongues at the tragedy, text a few dollars to the Red Cross, then move on because there’s nothing else we can do. And maybe generally this is true. There is only so much we can do.
This disturbs us. In the same way we are individualistic and independent, we think we’re capable of helping others, making a real difference; we think if we pour enough of ourselves out, we can solve the world’s problems.
But this is the other side of being neighborly: acknowledging we are all in this struggle together. That we are weak, and apart from God, we can’t do it. We can’t bring healing or redemption. We can be the hands and feet of God, but we only move through His spirit and power with all of humanity.
It’s so easy to create distance from other people, whether it’s because we don’t have the time, or we don’t have the patience, or the people around us seem strange or different or difficult. But something I’ve been challenged on lately is the truth that all people are made in God’s image; we are his little idols, and therefore all people should be seen with love and compassion.
We’re all neighbors to each other. How can we change our lives and reflect this truth?
The story of the “Good” Samaritan teaches we are to meet the pressing needs of anyone we meet as best we can with what we have. This is essential for Christian faith and practice. This does not mean we earn our salvation: Jesus sets and meets the standard for us. But we are to go and do likewise as best we can—as Jesus commands.
Here’s the thing about modern, every day judgment: it’s not judicial or public or even vocal. I think the kind of judgments we make as individuals is much more sneaky: it’s private, and it’s got deep roots.
I realized this while I was talking with some friends about the message from Sunday (while waiting, hungrily, to be seated at Catsup and Mustard). We decided we were all kind of judgmental people, and this was a bad thing. It might have been kind of easy to leave it at that and go back to sipping our beers and looking forward to watching the Lego Movie (which was AMESOME!), but someone (probably me), just couldn’t let it go.
Let’s just say someone said something like: “I’m judgmental, so I’m just going to be a little bit nicer to people.”
And we all realized something. Most judgment isn’t “done.” It is not “action.” I think it is kind of easy to think of judgment as people pointing fingers in other people’s faces, saying: “I’m judging you for who you are and what you’re doing!”
The reality is that most judgments we make about other people are not like this at all. I think most of the time, judgment looks more like making snide comments about a third party who isn’t there, talking about other people and their problems without talking with them about it. It’s making a call about someone and who he or she is without actually getting to know them and care about them.
Look at Simon the Pharisee (who, I’ll be honest, I judge pretty easily); when he sees the woman washing Jesus’s feet with her tears and expensive perfume, he doesn’t say anything to her about it directly. He makes a comment to Jesus about how weird and messed up she is.
But Jesus makes it clear how Simon is being judgmental and engaging in a kind of conversation that is destructive to people by turning the tables on him: when he points out how this woman is doing for him what Simon was supposed to do for him, he says this to the woman. He is looking at her, affirming her and what she is doing, and keeping his back to Simon, giving her the attention she deserves.
If Simon was really going to do something about this problem with this woman, he should have spoken to her first. But he wasn’t interested in getting to understand or know her, and see why she was doing what she was doing. He wanted to judge and show Jesus how great his judgment was, and it totally backfired.
And it’s hard. It’s hard to not to judge. Sometimes I think people are natural-born judgers.
So here’s something I’m going to try out: when I am quick to judge and quick to make some kind of conclusion about someone and his/her actions, I’m going to ask myself a few questions:
- How does this actually do something good/productive for me and/or the other person?
- Why am I not saying anything to this person about this directly, and instead making this judgment?
- How can I extend grace instead of judgment?
Because I don’t think it’s about being “nicer.” After all, some judgment is shrouded in “concern.” And oftentimes, the right thing to do is just talk to someone about what he/she is doing; if we’re going to judge, why don’t we get to the bottom of it? And communication can be a great thing. It’s about admitting our fallibility and giving judgment back to God by following Jesus’s example by connecting with people directly, rather than distancing ourselves from them.
Whoever sins much and is forgiven much loves much. Whoever sins little and is forgiven little loves little. But there’s no need to go out and become a great sinner. You can stay where you are–realizing you already are one. So judge no one. Receive everyone. And expect the same disapproval Jesus received.