How Empathetic Are We?

There are at least three ways we can view a fellow human being:

As someone to exploit

Jesus told a story about some thugs who rob a traveler, beat him up, and leave him severely wounded by the roadside.

Who would be so cruel? Apparently, those who are concerned only about themselves and don’t care who gets hurt, as long as they get what they want.

As someone to ignore

Another traveler comes along—a priest. When he sees the victim lying helplessly by the road, he passes on by.

Then comes a Levite. He does exactly as the priest did—he sees but does nothing.

Surely these two religious people would never stoop so low as to rob and beat a stranger. But do they feel anything for the man? Do they help?

They distance themselves from the man’s suffering—both physically and emotionally.

They leave him lying there—bleeding and alone.

As someone to serve

Then comes a third traveler—a Samaritan. Like the priest and Levite, he too sees the poor fellow.

Unlike the priest and Levite, he feels for him.

But he doesn’t just feel sorry for him—he acts immediately.

He dresses the man’s wounds. He takes him to an inn where he can be cared for—and even pays the bill!

And we?

So how do we view others—as people we can use for our own selfish purposes? As problems to ignore because getting involved can be messy, expensive, and time-consuming? Or as souls to serve?

Jesus’ parable graphically illustrates the Second Commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:25-37).

Jesus told the parable in response to a lawyer’s question, “And who is my neighbor?”

After describing how the priest, Levite, and Samaritan each responded, Jesus asked him, “Which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

“The one who showed mercy toward him,” said the lawyer.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.’”

Did he?

Will we?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Priorities and Lifestyle Choices

What we choose to love

Confined to a Roman prison because of his faith, Paul predicted that “difficult times will come,” citing the kinds of people who will make the difficult times so difficult.

Among them are “lovers of self, lovers of money . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4).

As William Barclay so well stated, “The moment a man makes his own will and his own desires the center of life, divine and human relationships are destroyed . . . . All sin begins in selfishness” (The Letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon, 211).

How we choose to live

The new life Christ offers us is the very opposite of me-centeredness.

Paul had discovered in his own experience that Christ’s way is the only way that gives true meaning and purpose to our brief time on earth (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

Selfishness is a dead end. Serving Christ leads to eternal glory!

Three times in his letter to Timothy, Paul uses a short Greek phrase (σὺ δὲ), variously translated by the New American Standard Bible as “Now you,” “You, however,” and “But you” (3:10, 14: 4:5).

In all three of these cases Paul has just described those who “oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith” (3:8), “evil men and imposters [who] will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (3:13), and those “who will turn their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (4:4).

Paul then urges Timothy to follow his example (3:10-12), hold to the truth of God’s inspired Word (3:14-17), and to “endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (4:5).

Our choice

Some have noted the contrast between those “who have loved His [Christ’s] appearing” (4:8) and Paul’s errant co-worker Demas, who “having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica . . .” (4:8, 10). When Christ someday appears, will Demas be pleased with what he chose to love?

So we must choose between mutually-exclusive priorities leading to diametrically-opposed lifestyles, ending in polar-opposite outcomes.

Me first or Christ first. Which?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Making Room

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Me first!

A few days ago I watched as hummingbirds buzzed in for a landing at a feeder.

Many times one would stop drinking to chase others away, even though there were four spouts—no waiting.

Researching this, I discovered that hummingbirds are instinctively quite territorial.

But what about those of God’s creatures made in His image?

While the “default setting” for humans is Me/My/Mine, we do have a choice.

You first!

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

“Me First” is ultimately self-defeating.

But the servant mindset Jesus exemplified not only blesses others but ourselves as well.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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