In Luke 10:25-37, an interesting exchange takes place: An expert came to test Jesus, asking what do I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus answers him with some questions, “What is in the law? How do you read it?” This of course leads into the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that breathes some fresh life into how God calls us to love one another.
One thing about this story that is often overlooked is Jesus’ response to the man who parrots so well his teachings about the most important parts of God’s instructions, or Torah. The man gives the perfect answer–quoting Jesus verbatim–and in the lull before the man pressed Jesus further, we find these words of Jesus in response, “do this and you will live.” Often, we like to make this text a text about salvation, but I would argue that this Jewish man assumes his own salvation. He would see himself as a son of Abraham, a person already to receive a share of Abraham’s rewards for his faithfulness. His question was not about how to get to heaven or find certainty in his salvation, it was about how to walk closer to God.
If this text is not really about salvation, then what is it really about then as far as we are concerned? In my reading it not about salvation as much as it is about our response to salvation. How does one live into this covenant/law relationship with faithfulness? How does one know they are interpreting the specifics of Torah in the way that God intended and desires? Jesus’ answer is: to Love God and others above ourselves. And to do this full tilt, with our whole selves, our whole lives. If we do this, Jesus says, we will live.
Often I think we embrace the opposite view, that the way to live is to embrace epicurean-ism, to put one’s self at the center of one’s life and seeking to specifically curate our every experience as to have the most amount of fun while experiencing the least amount of pain. The world tells us to loosen up and live in the moment, to be spontaneous and flexible. I think to some extent that is a healthy thing. But character qualities like discipline, commitment, and service are not the logical fruits of majoring in the moment and being enslaved by the pursuit of the relevant. If one would truly seek after the fullness of life with God it will take sacrifice… in fact it will take all you have—your full self. It will take ALL your mind, all your soul, all your strength… it will take the outworking of God’s love in a way that connects with one’s neighbor, that prioritizes others at least as much as one’s self.
If you are up to the challenge, consider taking 20 minutes or so to spend in solitude and reflection. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, marker, or crayons. Read John 15:17, Jesus’ statement about being the vine that connects us and our fruit to himself. Spend your time reflecting on some of the hard won fruits of your relationship with God, and your relationship with God as expressed through your relationship to others. Fruits are not things you do, those are deeds. Fruits are things that only God can do–blessings beyond ourselves we experience because we are conduits of God’s blessings. Discipline is the soul nurturing soil of the fruit, but God is the only one who makes the fruit grow.
Like the man in the story who tested Jesus, it is easy to know the right answer in our heads. Information is important, but God is just as interested in transformation. God wants to have the truth of His word settle down into our hearts and flow outward into the world. Sometimes it is good to stop, take a breath, and take a fresh look at where we are at and how we are connecting with God, and examine the ways that love shines through to our neighbor. Often we find places in our lives that are on the right track, and some that need a little pruning. May God bring a bountiful harvest as we seek to keep our connection to Him strong, and as we let God’s Spirit lead us into new ways of letting God’s love do its work in us.