Reflection July 14, 2019 by Rev Sunny Kim
Colossians 1:1-12/ Psalm 82 / Luke 10:25-37
Christian Is as Christian Does
A lot of you may not know this about me, but I come from a Methodist background. My father is a Methodist minister and I was brought up and ordained in the Methodist Church. As a proud Methodist, today I will start by introducing you to a little bit of Methodism and our Methodist father John Wesley. John Wesley was a priest in the Church of England. The Methodist movement started because he started the Holy Club at Oxford University. Its members followed a strict lifestyle of prayer, Bible study, and serving the poor. The name ‘Methodist’ was originally a derogatory nickname for the members of the Holy Club to mock their strict lifestyle. Who knew? The joke’s on the mockers. Anyway, if you ask me to explain the Methodist theology in one sentence, this is what I would say; there is no personal holiness without social holiness. In other words, if our beliefs and close relationship with God aren’t translated into a lifestyle of living out the teachings of Jesus, we are not legitimate Christians. That is the centre belief of Methodism. Then there is the doctrine of sanctification that teaches that everyday we should become better and go towards perfection, knowing that we’ll never become perfect.
The gist of Methodism is that we have to live out what we believe. The gospel message, like love, has to be lived out and proved with our lives; merely saying it is not enough. We receive a similar message from today’s gospel parable; the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, someone got mugged and beaten half to death on a road notorious for being dangerous. He was half dead, so probably not moving. A priest and a Levite passed by without helping the man, partially because it is very possible that they thought he was dead, and according to the Jewish Law, touching a dead body makes you temporarily unclean, and partially because they must have feared for their lives too. It was a well-known strategy for bandits to lure their victims with an injured person. You stop to help, and they strike. Some criminals still do that today. It is a great strategy, and also a reason people hesitate to stop to rescue someone in distress. Anyway, back to our parable… the priest and the Levite, both of whom are chosen people of God saved their own skin and left the distressed man vulnerable. Then came the Samaritan, the people that Jews despised, and he was the only one who helped the man in distress. He not only helped him, but went out of his way to properly care for him.
We are familiar with the storyline. But the moral of the story is not merely, “You gotta help people; they are all your neighbours”; the most crucial part of this story is that the only man who cared for the man in distress and proved to be his true neighbour was from a group of people that Jews considered as unworthy; as their enemy. A little piece of history about the Jews and the Samaritans. The Jewish national identity formed after they came back from the exile and started rebuilding the Temple; the only legitimate temple, which was in Jerusalem. When the Jews came back home thanks to the Persian emperor Cyrus, they were met with those who had never gone into exile. Those who came back from exile didn’t consider the others properly Jewish and started excluding and bullying them. This reminds me of the mandatory military service to which young men are subject in my home country; those who served in the military come back all pumped up and arrogant and treat those who got exempt from the service like they are not real men.
Anyway, that is why Jews and Samaritans became enemies; Jews excluded, bullied, and oppressed the Samaritans. The moral of this parable is that we are called to love even our enemies. In today’s context, we are not talking about the Nazi Germany or the Communist Russia. Let’s quietly think of the kind of people who make us feel uncomfortable or we might have prejudice against; Muslim women covered from head to toe, Sikh men wearing turbans, big men covered in tattoos on a motorbike, people covered in rags and smelly, or immigrants who can’t speak English very well. Whoever it may be, we all have prejudice against some people. Think about them for a minute and listen to Jesus say to you, “Go and do likewise.” We are called to love and serve even those who make us feel uncomfortable or we have prejudice against. We are called into a life of action.
Paul explains to the Colossian Christians that the gospel they have received should grow and bear fruit. The teachings of Jesus are like a seed; we received it and planted it in our hearts, but it is crucial to keep watering it so it may grow and bear fruit. The essence of the gospel message is that in God’s reign/ God’s kingdom, the principle of equality and justice rules and no one is oppressed. Justice is not only the centre theme of the gospel of Jesus Christ but also for the God in the Old Testament. Today’s Psalm also sings of the God who judges the world and rescues the weak and the needy. What we are learning today is that God wants justice, and God wants us to be God’s hands and feet in the world; instruments of God’s work of love, peace, and justice. We cannot pretend to be good Christians without living out the gospel messages. Christian is not as Christian says; Christian is as Christian does. Are you familiar with the movie Forrest Gump? Forrest is slightly retarded, and whenever someone asks him, “Are you stupid or something?” he answers, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Likewise, Christian is as Christian does.
Today as we hear God say to us, “Go and be my agents of love and justice,” let us think of the minority groups in our country; people from different cultures and religions, people from different genders, sexual orientations, abilities, education levels, and social classes. Let us think of the migrants and asylum seekers at the southern US border being treated like animals. There are people in our own community who need our love, friendship, and help; no matter who they are and where they are from. God calls us to be the body of Christ that brings God’s love to the world. Jesus says that love is action and that we should love even our enemies. Let us pray for our gospel seed to grow into beautiful fruit. Let us stop only talking about loving our neighbours, but instead just go and live out the love of God we learned from Jesus.