Monday, July 22, 2013
Jesus' parable of "The Good Samaritan" is known the world over in nearly every culture. I thought of it this past Sunday when my car quit just off the Interstate. I was on my way with Carol to conduct a church service, so I called a friend to take me to the church while Carol waited for the AAA truck to haul our car to the nearest dealership.
I stood at a busy intersection waiting for my ride about fifty feet from my obviously "dead car" wearing a clerical collar, holding my clergy garment bag, my brief case in hand. During that thirty minutes, at least a hundred cars stopped at the light where I was, but no one offered assistance. I should not be surprised. Consider this true story:
Some years ago an experiment was conducted at a seminary. Researchers gathered a group of seminary students in a classroom and gave them all an assignment. Their assignment was to record a speech about the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The speech would be in a building on the other side of the campus, and because the speech was to to be given soon, they all needed to hurry over to that building.
Unbeknownst to the students, on the path to that other building, researchers had planted an actor to play the part of a dirty vagrant, slumped next to a sidewalk, coughing and gagging. The students were attending a presentation about the Good Samaritan. What would happen if they actually encountered someone in need?
Not one of them stopped to help! All of them rushed past the hurting man to their assignment. One student even stepped over the man's body, then hurried to the speech!
We should not look down at these students because we may well have done the same. Simply knowing in our minds what the right thing is to do does not mean we will do it.
If we are going to be Good Samaritans today, it will mean more than a change of our mind. It will take a change of our heart. And that's what Jesus’ parable is really all about - a change of heart.
That is why Jesus said, "Go and do likewise!"
Monday, July 15, 2013
Freedom is one of the basic tenets of being an American. We believe freedom is a basic human right and privilege. Our Declaration of Independence speaks of "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." But exactly what is "freedom?" And is "Liberty" the same?
Driving back recently from Minnesota through Nebraska, I saw a large billboard in the middle of a farmyard that gave me a chuckle. It said,
KEEP YOUR GUN
SALUTE THE FLAG
In ten words the owner of that farmstead is telling people what he believes a free person should be able to do. Instead of bowing to political correctness, he wanted to make clear that freedom means being able to do those things.
"Freedom" and "Liberty" are not quite the same. Liberty is what a government grants its people for their personal pursuits. Freedom is one's individual ability to believe or think whatever one chooses.
Freedom is our right to make choices given to us by birth. It is a basic human right that cannot be taken away even by a totalitarian government, though they may try. Liberty is a governmental structure that allows us expression of freedom.
Example: A serf toiling a thousand years ago in Europe had very little liberty. He was a vassal of his overlord. He couldn’t vote and had no true freedom of speech or assembly. But he did have freedom to think his own thoughts and to make his choices, whether they got him into trouble or not. That freedom could not be taken away.
Paul often wrote from prison about his freedom in Christ. He said freedom carried the responsibility of not bringing harm to others. He also said freedom to do something didn't automatically give us the right to do it.
While we do have freedom to eat steak, wear furs or keep our guns, we must always make sure we exercise our freedom for a good purpose, and avoid bringing harm to others. Saluting the flag is a sign of respect and is always good. Jesus said "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)
Would you agree with the farmer's billboard? Why or why not?
Monday, July 8, 2013
An old man was camping in a field by a country road when he discovered a teenage girl hiding in some bushes nearby. She was cold and hungry, so he invited her to his campfire and gave her a blanket and food. She told him she had run away from home because no one there cared for her and she was better off being alone.
The old man told her of a game he played with his sons when they were little. He'd give them each a stick and asked if they could break it. Each of them quickly snapped the stick in half. Then he gave them handful of sticks and asked if they could break them all at once. They'd try and try but were unable to break the small bundle of sticks when held together.
"That single stick is you," he told the girl, "and the bundle of sticks is family. Alone you can break, but with family you are much stronger." In the morning the girl was gone, but where she had slept lay the small bundle of sticks. She'd realized being with family was better and safer than being alone.
Last weekend Carol and I attended a family wedding and enjoyed the many sisters and brothers, cousins, nephews and nieces and children darting here and there. It was a beautiful wedding, and the experience of being with family was strengthening.
Besides the joy of seeing a new couple married in Christ, there was some drama with problems of age and personalities. But it was family, our family, and the bundle of God's love held each one other together and showed strength in its numbers. Psalm 68:6 tells us, "God brings the lonely into families."
Now and then there is a family surprise. The bride was our niece, and we discovered one of the couples close to the groom there were members from a former congregation. It was fun renewing our acquaintance and seeing how God brings people together from many different places. Family is made strong when it is knit together of many different strands.
"A cord of three strands is not easily broken." (Ecclesiastes 3:13)
Have you thanked God for your family recently?
Monday, July 1, 2013
Someone once said to me, "People don't respect important things like they should." I agree. Even in our modern culture with all its odd twists and changes, there are still foundational principles we must respect and maintain, despite what polls might show.
Respect for Law: Abraham Lincoln said in 1838, "Let reverence for the laws, be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap; let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges; let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in courts of justice." It is now apparent there is a greater percentage of citizens who respect laws more than do our elected and appointed representatives who make them.
Respect for Marriage: Marriage of a man and a woman has been the foundation of civilization and the primary building block in the walls of human culture for millennia. For a vocal minority to insist this tradition is now out-of-date, and that it is necessary for Americans allow marriage between same sexes, is rule by opinion poll, and it can destroy a nation.
Respect for God: There was hardly a man or woman among our nation's founders who did not respect God, even if they didn't agree who He was or what to believe about Him. They believed God must not be ignored or denied, and certainly not mocked. Today this is routinely done in Universities, politics and special interest groups, and we are paying dearly for it.
Respect for Human Life: Life is a fragile gift. Modern humanity in its wisdom has chosen to end human life through elective abortion of its unborn infants for various reasons, few of which are valid. Most abortions are chosen as a matter of convenience, and yet we have enshrined even its most grizzly procedures under a cloak of law. A flippant attitude towards abortion disrespects human life, no matter how one tries to justify it.
Respect for our Nation: Despite what some of its citizens may do to prove otherwise, our nation is still the best on earth. Thursday is July Fourth, the 237th birthday of America. Fly your flag proudly. If you don't have one, get one. We'll be visiting family, and I plan to fly a flag from our car window.
Some may not respect important things, but the rest of us can't stop trying.