The more I write the less I feel qualified to do so. Last week I wrote a blog post which I had started once, deleted and started again before I finally posted it. Like most bloggers probably do I re-read the day after. I’ve done it with all of them but with this one I was annoyed at myself for posting it. I’d had a bit of a rant about several areas of Christianity that concern me at the moment. I tried to make them link and flow to be one profound, mind stretching, life changing piece of writing. It wasn’t! You may not have thought that if you’d read it. I had a few compliments about it but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted this blog to be. It was a self-rightiousy “I know best” post, pretending to myself it’s what I’m being challenged about but in reality, using my writing to vent frustrations about others. So I deleted it.
Even now as I write this I hear the quiet voice of God, reminding me to get the ruddy forest out of my own eyes before I use the tweezers to get the tiny splinters out of others. Gosh it’s so easy to look down on others!
Last night my husband and I went to a bible study. It’s run by some friends of ours who are two of the most faith-filled, inspiring people I know. They have devoted their lives to helping as many people as they possibly can to discover Jesus and know him and love him and the bible. Their name’s aren’t up in lights. In fact they are removing their names from any lights that are currently shining on them. They are humble, and brave. I admire them.
The bible study took a simple format. Read a bit from the bible. Read it again. Re-tell the story so it really sticks and then chat about it. We read The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Read it now if you can. I’ve read this parable hundreds of times. It’s one that most people will know, irrelevant of faith. I was read it roughly every month at Sunday school growing up but last night IT BLEW ME AWAY! We were challenged to think about it from different angles. What follows are some of my thoughts and some shared by others.
The first question was What do we learn about God? Early on we see it there in black and white: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”. God’s asking us to be totally devoted to him. Am I? Do love him like that? I could write a gushing paragraph about when my husband and I were (as my 6 year old says every time we show any affection to one another, with a disdained look on her face) “falling in love”. It would make us all puke so I won’t, but that’s the all consuming love God want’s from us. The Message version of the bible (a kind of modern day, easier to understand version) says “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence”. I want to love him with all my heart, every heart beat. Pray, pray and pray some more. Use my energy and effort for his purpose and use my brain for his good. A lot of the above goes on other nonsense, a lot of the time!
The next bit says “Love your neighbour”. I think it tells us that God genuinely wants and needs us to give 2 hoots about one another. It also tells us that God is not bothered by status or titles. His highest value is on the merciful and those in need of mercy. I can write as many wonderful, inspiring blog posts as I want but if I don’t really love my “neighbour” then I’m like the priest or the Levite (someone who was highly regarded and given lay-responsibilities in the temple). My title or the perception others have of me means nothing if I don’t care for people I come across when I’m on my own.
The second question was What do we learn about people? Ouch! The road where the parable takes place was notorious. Imagine driving through Moss Side at night and seeing someone stabbed. Would it be risky to help? Yes. People are fearful. I was massively struck where the expert in the Law”wanted to justify himself so he asked Jesus “and who is my neighbour”. That word “justify”. So many times I have justified not helping someone who needed it. Here are a few examples:
- Inappropriateness – I am female, person is male.
- Ineffective – Giving money is not the best way to help someone who is homeless, for example.
- Someone else can help better – Lots of charities are set up for people in need so leave it to the experts.
- Too busy – In a rush to meet someone, get something, go somewhere.
- Fear – That person can’t come and stay because I have two young children.
I justify why I can’t help. It’s easy to. It’s reasonable to. But what if the person that needed my help was Jesus in disguise. Read the story again as if Jesus was the man who was hurt. How would I feel if I’d walked on by? My heart sank!
We chatted further in the group about the parable and what it was teaching us. At the end we were asked what we’d do differently this week as a result of looking at this bit of the bible and if we would tell anyone about it? Yesterday I had spent a good few hours in a mood with someone who, as I shared with the group, had been a total boob! My challenge was to treat everyone as if they were Jesus in disguise. I can imagine Jesus hurt, in the gutter. But what if he is my friend who’s annoyed me who I’d quite like to punch in the nose? No-one wants to punch Jesus in the nose.
And then I said I would share it through my blog. It’s what I’m feeling at the moment. It’s me bare, spiritually naked and trying really hard with this whole faith thing.
We’ll be starting a similar bible study (simply looking at a bible story and having a think about how it can challenge us) at our house. It’ll be on Monday evenings from 8pm. If you want to join us (yes I mean you, secret blog reader!), especially if you’ve never really read the bible, please let me know. It might just be incredible!