(1)WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “Christians should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick,” (Article 15); and
When the teachers of the Law were questioning Jesus, He told them the entirety of the Law could be summed up in loving God with our whole self and loving our neighbor as our self. (Matt 22:34-40). How do we know what loving our neighbor as ourselves looks like? To know what Jesus is telling us to do, we look to the Scripture He is quoting- Deuteronomy- and learn what it says about how we should care for others.
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy at least 15 times (depending on how we count across the Gospel accounts.) This is what the Law He so often refers to tells us that God-and-neighbor love looks like:
Deuteronomy 10:18– To do justice for the orphan and widow, to love the immigrant or sojourner by giving him food and clothing.
Deuteronomy 24:17– To protect the legal rights of immigrants and orphans and the financial stability of widows.
Deuteronomy 24:19– To provide for the welfare of the needy in the productivity of your work.
Deuteronomy 15:11- To be open handed to the poor.
Deuteronomy 24:14– To be just in the treatment and compensation of all who labor- no matter their culture or ethnicity.
These are just a handful of examples of the commands given to the people of God (I highly recommend spending some time in Deuteronomy and Leviticus to develop a holistic view.) that Jesus sums up as ‘loving your neighbor as yourself.’
But as we see in Luke’s Gospel, this summation is followed by a qualifier. A teacher of the law asks Jesus- but who is my neighbor?
Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan.
Luke tells us that the man asks this question of Jesus in order to justify Himself.
But Jesus explains to him that knowing and enforcing a letter-of-the-Law moralism, his privileged birth, his position of authority and influence- none of those things are what God actually requires of a man. The parable of the Good Samaritan can be summed up by the words of the Prophet Micah:
Do justice– care for those in need who are right in front of you, especially when they have been mistreated, abused or injured by injustice.
Love mercy– show love and compassion, even if it is costly, for the sake of healing and repairing what has been broken, without regard for circumstance or camaraderie.
Walk humbly with God– do not believe that the one in need is a distraction from serving God or that your own tasks and ideas are more important than the needs of others.
This is how our confession instructs us to engage society- through the framework of loving our neighbor, especially our neighbor who is vulnerable or mistreated, ignored or outcast.
As followers of Jesus and Great Commission people, we must also be people of the Great Commandments.
We must see those around us.
We must not pass by.
We must not seek to justify ourselves at the expense of others.
But we must love others by seeking their just treatment and care in all circumstances.
We must remember the mercy given us by having open hands to all, even those who do not belong to our own groups.
And we must walk humbly with the God who tells us over and over again in His Word his special concerns for the orphan, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless and the sick.
*Contributed by Emily Snook