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by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

February, 2001

One Sunday last year, I visited another United Methodist church. After I returned, a friend asked me how I liked it.

"I liked it," I replied. "They do some things that are really nice."

"I'm not surprised," she answered. "They have a Youth Minister and an Education Minister and . . ."

I let her go on but what had really impressed me were simple things, the things that the people did rather than what the various ministers did. I thought of the parable of the "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37). When he told the parable, Jesus didn't talk about how the Samaritans had a wonderful "Rabbi of Outreach." Instead, he told about one person, who saw another person in need and decided to reach out and help.

Sometimes, the simple, basic things are the keys. The famous European beauty Sophia Loren once said, "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti." The contributions of a healthy diet to appearance and overall health and well being are well known. Occasionally, we get so wrapped up in the various ministries of "the Church" that we forget about the simple, basic things like greeting visitors and being friendly.

At times, we are tempted to decide for ourselves who our neighbor is. But the church is not a club. We cannot simply invite our friends and relatives, or people who agree with us. A while before Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, John approached Jesus: "'Master,' said John, 'we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.'" (Luke 9:49 NIV). But Jesus was not pleased: "'Do not stop him,' Jesus said, 'for whoever is not against you is for you.'" (Luke 9:50 NIV). Jesus had more to say about people who are against us:

"And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.
"When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, 'Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?'
"But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village." (Luke 9:52-56 NIV).

Instead of allowing the Samaritans to be destroyed, Jesus simply "went to another village." In the very next chapter, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps this event explains why: "an expert in the law" (Luke 10:25b NIV) needed to hear a lesson about loving his neighbor and having compassion, and James and John needed to hear a lesson about Samaritans.

Jesus said to the disciples, "'Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.'" (Luke 9:48b NIV). The word "whoever" means you. The word "whoever" means me. If we welcome others in Jesus' name, we welcome him, and the one who sent him.

"'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?'
"The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'
"Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'" (Luke 10:36-37 NIV).

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Copyright © 2001 by David Phelps