The question was raised in a discussion group, “How can we implement practical Christianity?” Answers abounded. The most popular thought centered around doing things for others they can’t do for themselves. Ideas were offering rides, sending a card, helping with chores. This seemed correct, but further thought changed my mind. What would your answer be if you were asked this question?
The Good Samaritan
From an early age, we learn the Bible story in Luke 10:29-37, about the good Samaritan. The story tells about a man who was robbed and beaten by a group of thieves as he traveled from Jerusalem toward Jericho. The poor man was left half dead on the side of the road. Here was a man in dire straits!
In our Bible story we learn the truth about the human heart. A priest went by the wounded man on the road, but he crossed the road and avoided him. A second man, a Levite, went by. He stopped to look at him, but he too crossed to the other side of the road. These two men were religious leaders who we would naturally expect to help. Yet, they had no compassion, and clearly no desire to lend their assistance.
There was a third man who also came by. He was a Samaritan man. This man, by virtue of his heritage, was usually despised. Yet, he was the one who had compassion on this one in need.
How Would You Respond?
Maybe there has been a time where you were faced with meeting the need of someone in dire straits. How would you respond? What would you be willing to do for an enemy?
Remember the question in Luke 10:29, from a certain lawyer? He asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered his question in Luke 10: 36-37: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
Most people think the story is teaching the doing of practical acts to help people like the good Samaritan. The lawyer spoke correctly. The one who showed mercy was the one to imitate, not necessarily in doing acts of kindness, but in showing mercy.
Acts of mercy are not limited to just meeting physical needs. Mercy is extended when we turn the other cheek, rather than retaliate against another. Mercy is extended when we forgive a grievous sin and offer a second chance. Mercy is given, with no thought of a return. Mercy holds back from giving what is justly deserved. Mercy requires heart.
Jesus Demonstrated Mercy
When Jesus died on the cross, He demonstrated mercy toward mankind from a heart filled with love. He took the punishment for sin, rather than allow us to take the punishment we deserved. Sometimes we too must take upon ourselves the cross so others might benefit. We must show mercy and forgive as we have been forgiven.
That’s practical Christianity.