Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Who is in your backyard?
Look around you? Who is God showing you is in your backyard? If you are surprised by his choice, don’t be; there’s a reason why he is highlighting that person to you. As you take a step to get to know them, you may understand why God sent you to befriend them.
Last week at the Celebration, Debbie Moore told her testimony. She has lived in Issaquah for a very long time; she’s lived in my backyard. But, it wasn’t until she walked in the first Celebrate Recovery that I knew about her. But, somehow I knew she was a person that I was to get to know; her backyard story matters.
And, although the details may be different in her story, her story is our story too. She lived a life of presenting one person on the outside, but living in shame, fear, and a destructive cycle of drinking when her disappointment in her circumstances rose up. She knew she needed help, but that she couldn’t do it alone. The day she walked in Celebrate Recovery, she knew it was a place of acceptance and safety; two key components for an invitation to go beyond the surface in a relationship.
There’s a name for the idea of acceptance and safety; it’s called “Grace.”
Grace is what we experience because Jesus took our punishment and gave us his life. We have life because he was willing to give his life for us. Grace is our invitation from Jesus, and then his instruction for us to share it with those in our backyard.
Luke 10 is a chapter written to teach us how to live as Jesus followers. Jesus tells the lawyer looking for the loophole of how he will inherit eternal life that he is to love God and love his neighbor as himself. The lawyer, wanting to make sure he has his bases covered, asks the key question: “Who is my neighbor? Who is in my backyard?
Jesus tells the most astounding story ever. It’s not about the person next door, or the Jewish people themselves, it is the Jews most hated enemy: the Samaritans. Jews used to walk 20 miles out of their way as they trekked to Jerusalem to avoid going through Samaria—20 miles is no small chunk of exercise change!
In Jesus’ story, a man gets robbed and is dying by the side of the road. He continues to lie dying as the priest goes by and then the Levite goes by. They each cross to the other side of the road, unwilling to help the dying man.
But, the third man does not pass him by: he crosses over and has compassion on him.
Think about it: the enemy the Samaritan crosses the street, which signals a willingness to go out of his way to help the dying man. Then, he lets his heart open up with compassion. And finally, he does something practical.
He helps him, and takes him to an inn and cares for him until he can stay no longer. Then, he pays the bill and tells the innkeeper to keep close watch on his recovery.
What can we learn from the Samaritan?
First, he was willing to be inconvenienced.
Second, he was willing to let his heart open up to care.
Finally, he did something practical!
Where are you in the spectrum? Are you willing to let your day be interrupted to listen to a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, or a stranger? Are you willing to lay down your agenda and let Jesus move in you?
Are you filled with Jesus so that your heart has some compassion to give? I think that many of us feel compassion fatigue from the constant suffering we hear about through the internet, CNN and the newspaper. This phenomenon can only be cured through spending quality time with Jesus as he continues to fill us with his compassionate heart.
We often think that we have to do the big things for it to matter. But, in Jesus’ story which teaches us how to reach out to those in your backyard, he shows us that the practical things matter: the meal to our sick neighbor, an email to a hurting friend, an offer to drive for a harried mother, mowing grass for an injured neighbor. All of it matters.
Take a moment to stop and pray. Ask Jesus to show you the people in your backyard that you can be present to come alongside this week. And then make a commitment that if you are prompted, you will respond with a yes in your heart and an action with your hands!