“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)
I saw a photo shared on my Facebook feed recently that said, “People who walked away from God because of a person put their faith in people, not God.” To that I’d say not quite.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard about people who have turned away from God because of a poor witness experience–in other words, an unpleasant or even traumatic interaction with poor ambassadors of God’s love. I was also turned off for many years by watching self-professed Christians act in the very ways that would make me never want to be like them.
As true believers, we can all have our moments when our flesh gets in the way of our witness, but it’s crucial that we refine our walk and our witness daily. The world closely watches professed believers, and when we act no different than unbelievers, we do them–and God–a great disservice.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it wasn’t either of the first two men–a priest and a Levite, both followers of God–who helped the beaten man, but a man from Samaria who selflessly tended to the injured man. As Jesus taught the Mosaic lawyer who questioned Him, it was the Samaritan who went above and beyond to help and show mercy to his neighbor. The two God-followers actually bore bad witness to God’s love.
Of interest in this parable is that the Samaritan man was one the Jews looked down on…but the one who demonstrated what Jesus wanted the lawyer–and us–to practice: it’s one thing to know that we should love God with all our heart and soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5), but it’s another thing to live it.