Jesus gave a simple command: “Love your neighbor.”1 However, “neighbor” is pretty vague, and some wise guy asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”2 Jesus answered with the story about a traveler on the way to Jericho who was ambushed by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two people passed him by but didn’t stop to help.3
I can speculate on what each might have been thinking as he passed that poor guy on the side of the road.
Each year, when Easter comes around, I find myself overwhelmed by the thought of what Jesus went through for us. So much suffering, anguish, and pain He took in the hours before His cruel execution. Not to mention the mental distress of knowing what was coming. Yes, He knew the purpose behind it all, but it was clearly still terrifying. In fact, Jesus requested an exemption from the cross.1
Anything that we want to do well at in life requires effort, including growing in Christlikeness. It takes work to consciously and deliberately develop godly beliefs, habits, attitudes, thinking, and behavior. It also calls for intentionally letting go of wrong beliefs, harmful habits, ungodly attitudes, erroneous thinking, and bad behavior.
“Who lives in a stable?”
“Jesus lives in the stable!”
At first I laughed at that answer my four-year-old sister gave during my impromptu lesson on animals and their habitats. But her answer kept coming back to me. Jesus lives in the stable. Was that the only place she saw Jesus come alive for me?
If you asked me how I feel about music, I’d say I’m an enthusiast. My friends might say a fanatic, but I just tune them out.
There’s something inexplicable about music that moves our hearts and stirs our souls. Powerful lyrics can be just the right thing to lift our mood and cheer us up, and I personally owe many happy moments to inspired songwriters.
I went to the retail store, Costco, today to return a vacuum cleaner I had purchased that turned out to be defective. After making our return, we were in need of a new vacuum cleaner and made our way to the aisle that offered several makes and models. It just so happened that a sales rep for one of the brands was on the floor demonstrating her wares.
Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, which provide an overview of how He intends for those who follow Him to live their faith. Throughout the rest of the Sermon, He expressed further and more detailed principles which build on the Beatitudes.
One of those principles, following right after the Beatitudes, is:
I was caught in one of our congested city’s dreaded traffic jams. The endless line of cars, trucks, and buses was crawling forward at barely a walking pace, while pedestrians, motorbikes, and bicycles managed to make a bit of headway, weaving between the lanes. The polluted air was heavy with the fumes of exhaust, and I felt sick to my stomach. With lips pursed in impatience, I observed the puddle-strewn unpaved sidewalk, still muddy from a recent downpour, and amongst the vendors displaying secondhand wares, fruits, and vegetables on tarps, I spotted a crippled beggar boy, not older than seven, holding out his hand.
The Bible has a lot to say on the topic of what our purpose in life should be. King Solomon, described in the Bible as the wisest man of his time,1 discovered the futility of living only for this world. He gives these concluding remarks in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Respect and obey God! This is what life is all about.”2
I’m sure most of us would look at Mother Teresa and people like her and think we could never be like that; we could never be so saintly or make such a difference in the lives of so many. Maybe not, but the tragedy is that because so many don’t think they can, they don’t even try.
But Mother Teresa didn’t set out to become a saint or a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. And she didn’t start out ministering to multitudes of the poorest of the poor. She just saw the need nearest to her and responded.