Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37 brings us the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here we have a story about a well-to-do legal eagle anxious to make an impression and display his knowledge of the scriptures. But Jesus threw back the challenge and asked him who was the neighbour and the lawyer replied "the one who had mercy on him." And Jesus told him to, "Go and do likewise."
There is a modern version of this story. It concerned a travelling salesman who lived somewhere in the United States. He had had a busy week and was returning to his home town. He stopped his car for a break at a roadside coffee shop. As he sat drinking his coffee he heard a girl quietly crying in the next booth.
He didn't want to get involved but he was moved by her obvious distress. The girl was about 17, the same age as his own daughter. Against his better judgement he introduced himself and asked if he could help. The girl whose name was Lisa told him that she was from a broken home and had got into bad company. She was into drugs and had turned to prostitution to pay for them. Moved as he was, he just bought the girl a meal and continued his journey.
Later that evening he shared his experience with his family, how his heart had reached out to her and how he wanted to help her in some way. His family suggested that he return to that town and try to find Lisa again and offer to help. He eventually located her. He discovered that she was but one of a number of girls in that town in similar circumstances who were being exploited by the pimps and drug pushers.
He was so moved by Lisa's plight that he took her home to his family, and that started a ministry to try and get those girls off the streets. Out of that simple beginning over a cup of coffee that man now has three full time workers and has seen scores of girls
come off the streets and get their lives back together. Some of those same girls are now part of the team. The ministry became so successful that it earned that man a Presidential citation.
He acted like a good Samaritan. He could have got together with his church fellowship and said, "we need to pray for these girls, they must be set free." If that was all he had done nothing would have happened. We need to pray, but we need to act. We need to pray, not for the situation itself but for the courage and strength to step out in faith and do something about it according to the gifts that God has given us.
There are a million stories out there. There are thousands of girls like Lisa and there are countless examples of injustice, corruption, pornography, abuse, and everywhere there are people needing, searching, desperately trying to find a new life. We are His hands and feet. When Jesus said `follow me' He meant it!
In Matthew chapter 4 verses 18 to 22 we are told of Jesus calling His first disciples. "Follow me," He said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Only once in the Gospels does it say that you must be born again, but 21 times Jesus said `follow me'. Almost 2,000 years later, how do we measure up?
Two hundred or so years ago, the era of the great evangelists, social conditions were much worse than they are today. Working conditions bordered on slavery, poverty and starvation were rampant. Yet those years saw some of the great revivals of all time. Without sophisticated electronic equipment and massive advertising campaigns, evangelists like John Wesley drew crowds of 50,000 and thousands on their knees gave their lives to Christ. Do we now have it so good? Has society reached the point where it doesn't need God?
I sincerely believe that people today need God more than ever before but few have any comprehension of what God is offering them. In my `retirement' (I use the term loosely) I have had time to reflect on why so many do not attend church. My fellow ministers will be well aware of baptisms, weddings and funerals where many that attend feel uncomfortable. They feel threatened by the very thought of church..
They are threatened because they feel that they will be embarrassed if they do the wrong thing. They might stand when they are supposed to sit, they won't know the hymns, they might be asked to say something, they won't understand what is being said, and they don't know anyone. Collectively, those things are a serious threat, certainly threatening enough to prevent them from attending a church service.
There are many who are totally confused by `religion', confused because on the one hand the church is telling them about creation, Adam and Eve and Noah's Ark, the Virgin birth and resurrection; and on the other hand science is telling them about evolution and has an explanation for everything.
They are told to repent of their sins but they don't know how (and probably doubt that they are sinners); they are told to follow Jesus but what does that mean? They are told that they will receive salvation but have no idea what that means either. They are told that God loves them yet they are beset with all the troubles around the place. They are being told these things against a background of wars, famines, death and destruction. Even the church seems preoccupied in disputing the teaching of centuries, thus adding to the confusion.
No, I don't have the answers but I do believe that we need to present God, Jesus and Christianity as real and relevant and non-threatening. We need to present the story of the love of God just as Jesus taught it - so simply that even a child could understand. After all, it is the simplest of all messages - "Love the Lord your God and love your neighbour as yourself."
When we are faced with situations all around us it is sometimes possible to doubt our vocation. Like the priest who found a young boy in the street, hungry, poorly clothed and obviously homeless. "God!" he demanded furiously, "Why do you allow this to happen? Why don't you do something about it?" And in his mind he heard the voice of God. "I do care," he was told, "and I've done something about it, I created you."
- Pastor Ron Clarke
Optional Bible readings: Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 13:10-23; Matthew 25: 40-46; Luke 10:25-37; Ephesians 2:10.
This is from a series of weekly messages of encouragement originating from the Huon Valley, near Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
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Pastor Ron Clarke (Mark 16:15)
Internet Home Pages: http://www.pastornet.net.au/word4week
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