Monday, November 18, 2013

Avoidance Strategy

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27 He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" 28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  (Luke 10:25-29)

Sometimes we make things harder than they have to be.

We complicate things that ought to be simple. We delay and procrastinate. We overthink, mentally gnawing on every possibility and every consequence. You could be doing this today with a relationship that hasn’t been right for while or a decision that has serious implications for your career. Maybe at some level, deep within yourself, you know what needs to be done. For now, however, you’re finding ways not to do it.

In most areas of life careful deliberation is wise. Knee-jerk responses are rarely a good way to handle things that matter most to us. But sometimes our careful deliberations are a mask for dragging our feet. Next thing we know, we’re not moving at all. We’re stuck.

An expert Bible scholar sought to engage Jesus in a discussion about ‘eternal life’ and how to get it. He did this by posing a question, the answer to which he already knew. God’s law was fairly straightforward as to the way that leads to life: Love God. Love neighbor.

Love God with all that you are, every aspect of your being: your thoughts, your emotion, your will. Yield yourself entirely to God. and along with that – actually, because of that – you are to love your neighbor with the same kind of love you show to yourself.

End of discussion. Do this and you will live.

But the Bible scholar couldn’t leave it at that. He had a follow-up question. He wanted to split hairs, pressing Jesus for precision on the word ‘neighbor.’ And this set the stage for one of the greatest stories Jesus ever told. A story about mercy.

This week we’ll be thinking about Jesus’s story and what it means to live as people who show mercy to those around us. Let’s not make this harder than it is. Showing mercy doesn’t demand that you make a journey around the globe or get a piece of legislation through congress. The neighbor is close at hand and the needs are there to be seen if we’ll pay attention.

Is there anything in your life today that you’ve complicated to the point of doing nothing at all? Don’t let careful deliberations or thoughtful questions become a strategy for avoidance.

Very often, O God, your word is clear. You guide our steps but we are hesitant to go where you lead. Forgive our tendency to make things hard, to overthink and under act. Grant us grace to live a merciful people in the places you lead us this day, by the power of your Spirit, we ask in Jesus’s name. Amen.

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