Jesus was asked at one point what the greatest commandment was. He responded simply with love God and love your neighbor. Simple enough. Then when asked what that love might look like, he told a story of a man who got beaten and thrown in a ditch. Or at least that’s my interpretation of the story…
Well, today, I was in a ditch. We got our first big snow of the winter. It wasn’t much snow, but it was very cold and windy. Two cars ahead of me was an suv that lost control and started to spin out. I swerved to avoid hitting it and I ended up going off the road and down a hill. My car got stuck in mud. I called my wife, called AAA and proceeded to wait.
I have to say, that story of Jesus’ has timeless application. I was clearly visible from the road. Lots of people passed me. I felt pretty helpless. A little ashamed. Pretty powerless. But a few people stopped. This gave me a renewed sense of hope in humanity. An in-uniform military guy was one of the people who stopped to help (you know, obvious good guy), but most were just average guys who wanted to make sure that help was on the way and that I was warm. There are some good people in the world.
As we begin to wrap up Advent we move our thoughts to love. Love, we have to remember, is never a weak feeling or passive emotion, at least not in the ways it is used in the bible. Love as defined by the New testament is always accompanied by actions that meet the needs of others. Love isn’t weak. Love sees the person on the side of the road and reaches out to where the hurt is and responds in service.
If love really is the hallmark of our faith, and I would argue that it is, then it seems that our highest calling is to those who are left on the side of the road. Those who have been left behind and abandoned are the measuring stick by which our faith is evaluated. Christianity is for the benefit of the lowly, the ostracized, and those who suffered injustice. The ways that we love should speak to the realities of those in need of help. We can’t love until we are willing to get into the ditch with people, be with them and help them out.
As we wait, we anticipate the day when the majority don’t pass by those on the side of the road, but work together to find solutions to problems.