The tricky part about walking out our faith is when we reach a point where we feel we’re so close to God and have everything figured out. We’re reading our Bibles every day, quoting scripture in our conversations and attending small group religiously.
And then someone cuts in front of us in the parking lot to grab the last spot. Or we’re late to class because someone forgot their project at home; or mad at our spouse because they did something that hurt our feelings. All of a sudden, we’re saying and thinking things we’ll regret that hurt others.
We may not think of ourselves like the Pharisees of the Bible who Jesus corrected when they passed judgment on others for not being as religious as they were, but it doesn’t take much to have the same heart as they did.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:25 (NIV)
The Pharisees acted like they were living in submission to God. Deep down inside where it mattered most though, their hearts weren’t! They were merely going through the motions of making themselves look like they were passionate about God. The truth is, they were more concerned about looking the part instead of being the part.
Jesus warns against playing games. We shouldn’t act like we’re living in submission to him. We must truly submit ourselves to him in our hearts. Some of us are experts at Christian talk, but it doesn’t always match our Christian walk.
Luke 10: 25-37 (NIV) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “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.”
What can we learn about matching our talk to our walk like the Samaritan?
1. Our love for God will be seen in how we love other people.
“…Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” 1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)
2. Loving God with all our soul and strength means ministering to people even when it’s emotionally draining, inconvenient, and irritating.
Two of the most difficult places to practice love is in marriage and in family. We’re with them day in and day out! They’re the greatest sanctifying tools we have in our lives. Need to learn patience? The best people to teach that are the ones who know us the most!
3. Don’t let pride block you from spiritual growth. The Priest and Levite knew about God and the Bible, but didn’t practice humility and obedience.
The greatest hindrance to our spiritual growth isn’t lack of knowledge, but lack of humility and submission. Most of the time, we know when we said something or did something wrong. We’ll only grow at the speed of our obedience, which means the speed of our humility. How fast do you want to grow spiritually?
4. Spiritual growth can only be gauged by how you love people.
How patient are you with your spouse, kids, or parents? How kind, how honoring are you towards them? Are you humble in the truth? Whose needs come first in your family, yours or others?
Let’s not get caught up in the outward appearance of Christianity, but let us draw near to God in humility and obedience. Let’s walk out what he teaches us and not just talk about it. If we say we love God, let’s love those around us.