Perhaps, there is nothing that causes an eye-dropping or a foot-shuffling anxiety more quickly among a group of Christians than talking about our responsibility to evangelize. However, as believers, we understand that promoting the gospel message of man’s sinfulness, God’s justice, and Christ’s redemption is mandated and expected to be carried out by each follower of Christ. There is no greater example than that of our Savior.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to study out Luke 10:25-37. This passage is familiar to many and known as the parable of The Good Samaritan. The story goes like this: A man is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. He follows a well-known treacherous road where he falls among robbers who strip, beat, and leave him for dead. Both the priest and Levite come and pass on the other side. Those who knew better or were expected to show compassion on this man did not. Then we see the Samaritan man. He stops, bandages the wounds, puts him on his “own beast” and brings him to the inn to take care of him. The next day he provides two pence to the innkeeper and expresses to him to care for the man’s needs at whatever financial cost.
So what is the meaning of this parable? What is the truth that Jesus was trying to express? No doubt, your first inclination would indicate the truth of “being a good neighbor” or “do good unto others.” However, I would challenge you to consider that this parable was actually an evangelistic endeavor by the greatest soulwinner of all time: Jesus Christ.
Notice the context of the passage. In verse 25, a “certain lawyer” steps out of the crowd to ask Jesus a question. No doubt, this man was attempting to put Christ to the test. Yet, he asks the greatest question of all time, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” That is the right question to ask to exactly the right person, who is Himself eternal life, the very life-giver. So Jesus responds by pointing him back to the Scriptures: “What is written in the law? How readest thou?” His response is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” Jesus responds by affirming his answer and commands him to go ahead and follow this command. Yet the text indicates that the lawyer, “willing to justify himself” asks the question “and who is my neighbor?” This arrogant response indicates the hardness of his heart.
Now in Matthew 5:43-44 Jesus said: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Jesus countered the “elite” mindset of the religious leaders. In that day, hating your enemy was a sign of dedication towards God. So when the lawyer requests a definition on neighbor, Jesus gives it to him. Your neighbor should even be your greatest enemy. For the Jews, it was Samaritans. We see this man show amazing generosity for a complete stranger, to one who is his enemy, who is hated by him. Jesus defines this as loving your neighbor as you love yourself. Isn’t it true? If it were you, you would have treated yourself in a similar fashion. The reality is; we do not love like that Samaritan. That is what Jesus is trying to demonstrate to the lawyer.
To conclude this teaching moment, Jesus expresses to the lawyer, to “go and do thou likewise.” The point being that he could not love like that. In this evangelistic meeting, Jesus points out the lawyer’s self-righteousness and shows his true sinfulness.
As I consider this passage, I realize that evangelism must address the needs of another. While we attempt to “package” the gospel in a specific way, we often fail to bring in the personal aspects of an individual’s needs. There are some who will recognize sin, and need an immediate application of grace while others will need to be pointed back to the Scriptures just as this lawyer did. Did this lawyer get saved? He may have! However, in this parable, we see that Jesus specifically attempted to introduce the lawyer to his sin. Before grace can be realized, our sinful condition must be exposed and accepted.