Luke 10:25-37 (NLT) One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here. Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” James 2:14-17 (NLT) What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Growing up in a small town in eastern North Carolina in the 50s and 60s meant that everyday life and activities revolved around the church. Sunday mornings and evenings, Wednesday nights were for church. If there was a revival, the whole family was there. There were songs to sing, lessons to learn and scripture to memorize. Missions were collecting money for “China” and canned goods, dry goods for those less fortunate at Christmas time. And even back then, you could adopt a family for Christmas though it looks a lot different from now.
One of the songs we sang went like this: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I know, as you are reading this, some of you will have that tune running through your mind; you might even be singing it. You’re welcome, it brings back memories. It’s a simple song for a simple time; the point is, Jesus loves children.
As I thought about the immigrant children here in the hurricane zone and then reflected on the passages above, I did not like what I saw. Many times, too many times, I have been the lawyer who wanted to justify myself by asking who is my neighbor. Too many times, I have been like the priest and just walked by; seeing the suffering, yet doing nothing to alleviate it. Too many times, I have been the Temple assistant who went over and looked, but then passed by on the other side. There is not doubt that I, like they, am a good person. You know, I give my tithe, I say my prayers, I give offerings, I collect food (not just store brand) for food drives, I take clothes (some I have never worn) to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or someplace that is collecting them. But…where is my heart? In doing these things, am I just checking off the box of what “good” people do? In and of themselves, those things are good and needful. But again, where is my heart?
If I love my neighbor, it should mean that I feel their pain as deeply as I feel mine. If I love my neighbor, it should mean that when they suffer, I suffer as well. The difference between me and the Good Samaritan is that he saw, he felt and then he did. He became personally involved. He showed mercy; he demonstrated mercy by using his resources, sacrificing his comfort, and paying forward to care for the man. The Samaritan could have taken the bandages, the olive oil and wine and placed it beside the man and told him to take care of himself. He could have bandaged the man up and told him to make his own way into town. He could have taken the man to town and told him to make his own way. He could have taken him to the inn and left him there, unaided. The Samaritan could have done all those things, but he didn’t. He showed mercy to a man he had never seen before.
We see the immigrant children here in eastern North Carolina. We see them on the playgrounds, at the park, in the grocery store, at the library. But do we really see them? Do we recognize them as our neighbors? Do we love them as we love ourselves? If we don’t, what kind of faith do we have? If we aren’t actively seeking to “do mercy”, what are we doing and why?
Hurricane season is a little over six months away. What would the next hurricane season look like for immigrant children if we took the time during Advent, to pray and reflect on how we could show mercy? In this season of waiting and preparing for the second coming of Christ, what would it look like if we considered our resources and how we could better use them? What would it look like if we saw, we felt and then we showed mercy?