I often hear people say that religion causes division, and I agree to some extent.
Religion tends to divide because some people care more about religious practices than they do people.
I learned a very valuable lesson about this when I was a kid.
One Sunday morning, we were running very late to church. So, my mom was speeding down our block as if we were in a Fast and Furious movie.
We lived at the top of a mountain, so those "speeding" days were quite fun for us. As we were zooming down the street, mommy slowed down to approach a car that was pulled over.
She pulled down the window and asked the people in the car if they were okay. They said their battery died and they needed a jump. My mom looked at the time and told them that she was sorry, but we were already running late for church.
And then she drove off.
About 30 seconds later, she made a crazy U-turn and went back to help the people with their car. My mom glanced in the rearview mirror at us (my sister and I were in the backseat) and said, "What's the point of going to church if we don't help people along the way."
We are the church, and our mission is to show God's love to people.
"Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” — Matthew 22:37-40
I absolutely love the parable of the good Samaritan. Most people have heard someone say, "Be a good Samaritan," at some point in their life, but not everyone knows that the term comes from the Bible.
As the story goes in Luke 10, there was a Jewish man traveling to Jericho who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road.
A priest and Levite came along and saw the man lying there but crossed to the other side of the road and ignored him.
Then, an unlikely hero, a Samaritan, came along and felt compassion for him.
The Samaritans were despised by Jewish people—they were outcasts and looked down upon. So, the Samaritan could've ignored the man and kept it pushing like the "religious" folk did.
But he didn't.
The Samaritan had compassion for the man and treated his wounds. And he didn't just stop there. He put the man on his donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke 10:35 says, "The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, 'Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.' "
Our neighbors aren't just the people who look like us, believe the same things as us, or those who like us. Our neighbors are any and everyone around us.
In NYC, our neighbor can be the homeless person we see laid out on the sidewalk. I've called 911 a few times for homeless people who looked like they needed help and bought food for some too, but I am very guilty of just passing many of them by.
I can't speak for everyone, but there have also been times when I made a slow attempt at holding the elevator door open when I saw someone coming and pretended to be asleep when I saw an elderly person get on the train.
These are poor examples of being the light of the world.
As Christians, we cannot be like everyone else. We must always strive to be the example of a good Samaritan.
God's grace, that we receive as believers, produces in us love, compassion, generosity, and the desire to help others who might look down on us. Everything we do (or don't do) matters.
Unfavorable, uncomfortable, and inconvenient situations are when God wants to use you to make a difference. You are the church, so be the difference and show others that true religion—Christianity—is about unity and love, not division.
Do you often help others without expecting anything in return? If not, what's one thing you can do starting today to be more selfless? As always, I'd love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and stories. Yes, YOURS! Reply on the discussion page on the blog.
You were born to do great things. Be the difference.