The Liberation of Love
Luke 10: 25-37
This morning I am straying away from the Lectionary – that cycle of Scripture from which I usually preach – in order to preach on the parable we have just heard. The parable of the Good Samaritan.
As many of you know tomorrow we remember the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This past Thursday was his birthday, and with the renewed reminder of the problem of racism in our country – I though it would be appropriate on this day – this day when we remember our nation’s greatest prophet of love – I thought it appropriate to preach on one of his favorite passages of Scripture, and one that speaks just as powerfully to us today. A part of scripture that flips the script of the status quo and turns over the tables of our complacency. A piece of scripture that tears down the dividing wall and speaks to us of the liberation that love brings. The liberation of love.
Let’s hear this passage again from the JAT version:
Just then, a leader came down the state house steps and tried to trap Jesus.
“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Well,” Jesus said, “What do the scriptures say?”
“You are to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind…and you are to love your neighbor as yourself.”
“There you go. Your are correct. Follow those rules and you will live.”
Needless to say, this not what the leader was hoping to hear. After all, he wanted the answer he wanted – one that he could use to get the most votes.
“Fine, then, who is my neighbor?” he asked trying to trap Jesus.
Jesus looked at this fellow and told the following story:
There was a man who decided to walk from the east side toward downtown. He didn’t go down 10th street, or Washington – one of the busy ways, rather he decided to go down the side streets. He crossed various turfs along the way. Well, he finally crossed the wrong path and was mugged, pistol whipped, and left beaten and bloodied on the side of the road. They took his wallet, his cash, and left him for dead.
Now it just so happened that there was a small store front church a few blocks away, and the pastor of that church was headed to a stewardship meeting. He saw the man and saw his condition and thought it better to cross the street and get to his meeting. Then, not long later, there was an city councilor who saw the man – rolled his eyes and went to his fundraiser.
Then, just as the night was at its coldest and quietest, up came a man. His jeans were sagging halfway down his legs. The ink on his arms and face told the story of his affiliations. Trembling the man who was left for dead saw the very image of the guys who beat him. And as this new stranger slowly stuck his hand in his pocket – the beaten man whispered a prayer. It was almost slow motion – knowing what was coming out of the pocket the man tried to say he had nothing left to give, but instead of the expected gun – the stranger pulled out his cell phone and called 911. And then he began to attend to the man’s wounds. Compassion filling him.
When the ambulance arrived, he took the roll of cash out of his other pocket and gave it to the drive and told them that since the man’s wallet had been stolen and he had not proof on insurance – to use this cash to pay for treatment. And if more was needed he would swing by the hospital in the morning with what was owed. The stranger gave everything he had for the beaten and bloodied man.
“Now,” Jesus asked, “which one of these proved himself a neighbor?”
“The one who shoed mercy.”
“Well, now, go and act like that trouble maker.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
How many times do we come to the gospel with our own agenda? How many times to we come to the words of Jesus with the answer we are seeking already made up un our minds? How many times do we, like the questioner in this story, come to Jesus asking a question that we think we know the answer to – only to be shaken up and caused to reexamine everything?
This is the liberation of love!
Jesus tells this story to shake up the world of the man who asked the question. He shakes it up, so that the liberating word comes to the top.
The man comes to Jesus with his mind made up. He comes to him knowing that all he needs to do is answer the question correctly and he will get his reward. He just needs to hear that he is correct. And when he answer correctly he will get know the secret to life, the universe and everything.
But Jesus shakes things up. Jesus brings the liberation of love.
The man answers correctly that to be fully present in the eternal life with God, one is to love God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s strength, and all one’s mind – and that one is to love neighbor as self. He thinks it is all about the correct answer, but Jesus takes it a step further.
You can’t just say you love God and love your neighbor – there is action behind it. And those who understand this love ethic best – the ones who practice what Jesus preaches are often those we would least expect.
In Jesus’ parable he uses the Samaritan as the one who understands loves liberation most of all. He uses for his example, not the one who preaches love, not the one who “knows” right from wrong, but he uses the one who knows rejection and abandonment – isolation and bondage. He uses for his example of a good neighbor – the one the hearers of the story would not want to even be touched by.
He names the good neighbor as the one hated by the hearer: the drug dealer on the streets; the ISIL terrorist; the Boko Haram thug; the crooked politician; the welfare recipient; the one that represents everything we think is wrong with the world – this is the one Jesus uses as the example of the good neighbor.
Jesus shakes things up and the liberation of love makes its way to the top.
Jesus names the hated as the good neighbor because it forces us to see them, too, as a child of God. It forces us to begin to see the ones we despise as created in the same image of God as we are – and when that that happens the liberation of love begins to loose the chains on our hearts that prevent us from loving God fully.
When we get so focused on what is wrong with those who are not like us; when we get so focused on how it is that those people can do those things; when we go so focused on how mixed up and wrong everyone else is – we miss seeing that we, too, are in need of the liberation that those we judge are. We get so focused on the speck in our neighbors eyes that we miss the logs in our own. And we become enslaved by our own holier-than-thou-ness. We become trapped by our own ego and pride. We come to Jesus seeking affirmation rather than transformation.
But Jesus us about transformation. He is about transforming the man who brought he question. He is about transforming the image of the outcast. He is about transforming the bondage of sin with the liberation of love.
Jesus tells this story because it is about a God who none would expect to meet a broken and beaten mess on the side of the road. It is about a God who takes the broken sinner and makes them whole. It is about a God who meets us with a liberating love that binds the wounds of our broken hearts and makes us whole. Who transforms us into people who can love God with our whole beings and transform the world because we love our neighbors as ourselves.
When we see the liberation of love in our lives we are able to tear down the walls that separate. We are able to name the cycles of racism in our midst. We are able to say that there are systems in place that unfairly treat persons of color and poor people differently than those with means. We can name that even though illegal drug use is about the same amongst whites and blacks it is disproportionately blacks who are put in prison for possession. We can name that there is a new Jim Crow that determines a child’s worth to society by their third grade test scores. We can name the bondage that is need of loves liberation.
And we can stand boldly on the Gospel claim that in Christ there is no east or west. That in Christ all of us are equally God’s children – it does not matter what your station in life; it does not matter your race; it does not matter your sexuality or gender identity; it does not matter your age; it does not matter if you even believe in God because when we live in the liberation of love we are able to see everyone as a Child of God. We are able to see people for the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We are able to see that we are all beaten up and bloodied victims of the world in need of a savior that comes along the side of the road to lift us up.
The liberation of love is what binds our wounds.
The liberation of love is what ties us to one another.
The liberation of love is what frees us from the powers of the world.
The liberation of love is what brings us into relationship with God and one another.
The liberation of love is the freedom we find in the crucified Lord.
The liberation of love is what delivers us from the cycles of hate and fear.
The liberation of love is what will rebuild our communities.
The liberation of love is what is the cornerstone of our faith.
The liberation of love is God with us.
The liberation of love is God working in the lives of each one of us. When we live in the liberation love of God we love people not because we like them, but because God loves them. The universe is on the side of Justice. The universe is one the side of love. How can it not be? We have a God who gave up everything to find us on the side of the road.
The universe is on the side of love because while the grief of Good Friday may last for a day – the hallelujah shout of Easter rings for eternity.
To quote Dr. King – “Evil may so shape events that Caesar may occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but one day that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., such that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name…so we can walk and never get weary, because we know that there will be a great camp meeting in the promised land of freedom and justice.”
In the liberation of love were are freed to love God so fully that we can do nothing other than love our neighbors as ourselves. Because they are are so fully loved by the same God who, in the guise of one hated and despised came to meet us on the side of the road and free us from our broken and bloodied state. Binding our wounds and making us whole. Liberating us with love.
Thanks be to God.