Part 1

One of our stated goals as a church family is to increase love and godly behavior. Here are a couple of questions: First, why would we want to strive for that? Answer: It is important to making disciples and being disciples. We just won’t be true disciples if we are unloving and ungodly. Second, how can we increase in love and godly behavior? Do I just will myself to love everyone? Do I commit myself to more good deeds to prove I care? Do I have to love more people? Sometimes it is hard to love the people I do know. These are good questions. Response: We might increase love and godly behavior when we realize that they are more than just good deeds or good will – they are the tangible evidence of our eternal life emerging into our life even now. They are visible elements of God’s saving power at work in us.

Jesus made the connection among behavior, eternal life, and love on a certain occasion when an expert in the Jewish law asked him two important questions (Luke 10:25-37): His first question, a very common question for a rabbi, was "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" I sort of hope that if an expert in the law asked me a question I would do just what Jesus did – defer it to the expert: "You’re the scholar here," he says. "You’ve studied Scripture, what do you think?" The expert comes back with an answer Jesus himself has given as the greatest commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18)
Now notice that Jesus doesn’t regard this sort of love as just a warm feeling or a compassionate tear in the eye. He regards it as a directive for action and a principle for behavior – "Do that and you will live." Now wasn’t that simple? With two verses and six words Jesus has given the answer to eternal life.

But can it really be that simple? I mean couldn’t this instruction to "do that" be mistaken for works-righteousness? And I think I know how to love God (there was a little more detail there) but how do I love my neighbor and what neighbors are we talking about here. What exactly are my obligations to other people?
That’s just how the expert saw it. Wanting to justify himself he couldn’t accept the simplicity of Jesus’ answer. So he asked his second question – "Who is my neighbor?" There, that will teach Jesus to make such comprehensive statements! I mean really, we can’t go around acting as if there isn’t some sort of exception. Life just isn’t that simple. The scripture says neighbor and not just "love everybody," so it cannot be an absolute. We need to define neighbor, yes?

Love your neighbor as yourself. Who is my neighbor? Jesus answers this question with a story ...
Once there was a certain man traveling the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Now as we all know, it is a dangerous route and a hideout for bandits. And as you might expect he is ambushed, beaten, stabbed, and robbed – stripped of all his belongings and left for dead. He will die if someone does not arrive to help him.

Now along comes this priest riding along on his donkey. He notices the unfortunate victim but passes by on the other side of the road. Perhaps he thinks the man is a Gentile or that his disregard for the commands of God has led him to this state. It might be a ruse and this is just an attempt to get me over there by the high grass and robbers will attack me. He mulls this over until he is on down the road. Meanwhile the certain man is still there and He will die if someone does not help him.

Now there comes a Levite walking to Jerusalem to do his service in the Temple. He sees the man and passes by on the other side. Perhaps he thinks the man might be dead and it wouldn’t do for him to defile himself by touching a dead body – not that he’s squeamish after all since he deals with the sacrifice of animals – but if he is defiled then who will fulfill the service in the Temple? What can be done if the man is dead? Meanwhile the certain man is still there and He will die if someone does not help him.

Now at this point in the story, we are just waiting for the hero to arrive. Jesus must have offended the expert of the law and any other faithful Israelites listening by making the next traveler a Samaritan. Samaritans have no respect for God’s law. They have no respect for the temple. They are the result of intermingling between Israelites and Assyrians. They claim to be descendents of Abraham but their history and behavior proves otherwise. Everyone in Jerusalem recalls the acts of terror and destruction Samaritans have committed. It wasn’t too many years before Jesus told this story that Samaritans defiled the temple with pig blood and vandalism. That’s an attack that not only destroys, but also creates panic – it is symbolic. Jesus should know what sort of people these Samaritans are. The Samaritan woman he spoke to at the well (John 4) had been married four times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband. Just before this Q & A with the expert in the law he and his disciples traveled through Samaria and no one offered them hospitality simply because he was on his way to Jerusalem (Luke 9). That was so offensive that James and John asked if Jesus wanted them to call down fire on the Samaritans as if they were Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s your average Samaritan for you.

But back to the story Jesus says (and I can’t believe he’s saying this) that a Samaritan comes along and he has compassion for the man so he stops, makes bandages from his own garments, uses oil and wine (his provisions for his journey) to medicate the man’s wounds, takes him to an inn (where he is very likely unwelcome), pays the bill and leaves some sort of item on credit to insure that he will pay the bill should it go higher.
So, going back to the original question that prompted this story, Jesus has a "neighbor question" of his own - "Which of these three appears to have been a neighbor to the one who was robbed?" The expert of the law – no doubt quite offended by the way the story turned out with a Samaritan cast against type – answers without soiling his lips with the "S" word. "The neighbor to the man who was robbed is the one who showed him mercy."

Two Responses – It is important to notice these two responses. They go back to our two questions earlier. The response of the expert is: "The one who did mercy." Sure, that’s bad grammar, but that’s how it is in the original language. And that fits with Jesus’ response to the response that addresses both the question "Who is my neighbor?" and "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus’ response: Go and do the same.

Doing mercy and love and good deeds aren’t so we will get saved. We do what we are. Sometimes there is too much distinction made between doing and being - If I ask you what you do you don’t say: "Well, let’s see on Monday I fixed a brake line and before that I changed an oil filter, and then replaced a water pump." No you say, "I am a mechanic." I understand what you do when you tell me what you are. That’s the way it usually works. So why can’t we get the idea that saying "I am a disciple of Jesus. I am a Christian. I am a child of God" sorts out what we do? We love because he first loved us. We behave in a godly way because we share in his divine nature. Growing in the understanding of our life in Jesus helps us understand what we should do, otherwise we are stunned into inaction ...

This teaching of Jesus became something I experienced one Saturday in Scotland. A few of us there for a mission campaign were walking down a road in Glasgow – in a pretty rough part of town. As we were on our way, a drunk was thrown out of a bar into the road in front of us. It would have been almost comical if it hadn’t been for the fact that the old alcoholic got up from the ground with a bloody nose. He cursed the bar owner, and not being able to stand he slumped down to the sidewalk and sat next to a garbage can. A human being, thrown out with the trash! As we walked on not wanting to get involved with the intense drama, one of my companions, a new Christian, said "Shouldn’t we help that fellow?" (That’s the problem with new Christians – they are just so naïve and haven’t learned how to justify themselves). Seeking to justify myself I pointed out that the man was a drunk and he had probably done something really wrong to get thrown out a bar. Besides that, I was thinking to myself, I need to get back to work on my sermon because I am preaching on a text I just recently studied, Luke 10 and the parable of the Good Samaritan.

I learned a valuable lesson through this living parable. If I have to ask "who is my neighbor?" then I do not understand love. Not the sort of love for neighbor that flows out of love for God and the eternal life we enjoy as a result of God’s love for us. After all, if we have been so blessed as to inherit eternal life from our Father who loves us, shouldn’t we be willing to increase – to grow in love and share that love with others?

Conclusion (Increasing Love and Godly Behavior – They go together for Christ-like love is active) – Who do you identify with today – in both these stories.

  1. Can you identify with the priest and Levite? – (Or me in Scotland). We can never justify our inheritance of eternal life by obeying a long list of laws or by limiting our obligations with a short list of neighbors. Both attempts are contrary to love (the love of God)
  2. Can you identify with the victim of robbers/or the drunk or every broken person you encounter? – Their only hope is that others will be merciful neighbors who come with the grace to heal and restore – isn’t that what Jesus did?
  3. Can you identify with the Samaritan or with the naïve Christian who wants to be like Jesus – It isn’t one’s class, nationality, training, or theological affiliation that justifies. What justifies us is love acting in mercy – doing mercy. Being a neighbor.

Maybe you don’t want to identify with a Samaritan and you can’t recall what it was like to be a naïve Christian. Fine, can you identify with the author and perfecter of eternal life – Jesus? Didn’t the Samaritan just do what Jesus would do? And didn’t Jesus do love and godly behavior. He did, and it got him nailed to the cross, but it also got him raised from the tomb. Here’s how we increase love and godly behavior – those of you who’ve been baptized and those who would be - I want you to know that when you were/are submerged into Christ you were/are baptized into his death and live with the hope of being resurrected. God’s love and his behavior live in you.

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 October 2004

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
Notes for the Sermon – "Increasing Love and Godly Behavior" – Part 1
October 24, 2004

Luke 10:25-29 - The expert in the law asks Jesus two questions:

  1. "What must I d___ to inherit e__________ l________?" (Luke 10:25)
    • Jesus invites him to answer his first question from Scripture:
      1. "L_______ the Lord your God with all your h________ and with all your s________ and with all your st________________ and with all your m_______." (Deut. 6:5)
      2. "L________ your n______________ as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18)
    • Jesus agrees and replies: "D____ this and you will live." (Luke 10:28)

  2. "W_____ is my n_________________?" (Luke 10:29)
    • Jesus answers the second question with a story.
    • Listen carefully to the story today as it is told and note your impressions of, thoughts about, feelings for, and interest in the following people:
      • A man (Luke 10:30)

      • A priest (Luke 10:31)

      • A Levite (Luke 10:32)

      • A Samaritan (Luke 10:33-35)

  3. Jesus ends with a question about neighbors to answer the expert’s question about neighbors: "W______ of the three appears to h_______ b_______ a n_____________ to the one who was robbed?" (Luke 10:36)

  4. Two responses follow this question, first the expert and then Jesus (Luke 10:37):
    • Expert: "The one who d______ m____________."
    • Jesus: "Go and d______ the same."

Making Disciples for Jesus Eager to Serve Others
"Increasing Love and Godly Behavior" – Part 1
Driving It Home Discussion Guide
October 24, 2004

  1. Read Luke 10:25-37.

  2. Discuss the conversation between Jesus and the expert in the law (10:25-28). Scripture makes it plain that we are saved by grace and not works (see Ephesians 2:1-10 among others), but Jesus doesn’t deny that the inheritors of eternal life "do" something. What is the connection between being saved and the way one acts? (See Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-18). What is the connection between eternal life and living?

  3. Notice the answer the expert gives from Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). What is the common verb in these teachings? Are love and behavior related? Is love an emotion or is it action? In 10:37, the expert admits that the neighbor is the one who "does" mercy or compassion. How do you "do" compassion or mercy? Compassion and mercy aren’t active verbs are they?

  4. Consider the actions of the priest and Levite. Why would they pass by on the other side? Are there reasons that we would accept as valid? How do their actions qualify the definition of neighbor?

  5. Why does Jesus make the third traveler a Samaritan? How would the expert in the law and the Jewish audience hear this? How would it offend them? Were Samaritans following the law? If Jesus were to tell this story in a modern setting and made the third traveler a Muslim, would we be offended? What other type of person playing the role of the compassionate person might offend us or challenge our assumptions? What does this teach us about loving God and loving our neighbors? What does it suggest about being justified?

  6. How does Jesus’ question at the end of the story (10:36) change the question initially asked by the expert (10:29)? We often assume that the answer to "Who is my neighbor?" is anyone who needs our help. Is this really how Jesus answers the question? Is there a difference in choosing your neighbors and choosing to be a neighbor? How will you specifically show love by being a neighbor this week?
  7. Read 1 Corinthians 13. Is there a connection between love and godly behavior? Is love active or is it an abstract concept? How is love superior to experience or following the rules? How does love validate experience and godly behavior?

Prepare for Oct. 31 – "Increasing Love and Godly Behavior - Part 2"

    Read Matthew 18

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 24 October 2004
 Link to related sermon: Expressing Love for God in Godly Behavior by David Chadwell

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin