If you’re wondering where the #allin hashtag came from you’ll need to read the last blog I wrote.
You probably haven’t heard this story before.
A man is travelling between two places. He’s just a normal guy, nothing extraordinary, no different from me or you. He’s just travelling from A to B. But on the way he gets jumped. The criminals beat him and take everything he has – clothes, money, everything. He’s half dead and left on the side of the road. He can’t move by himself.
(Ok, I might have lied, you’ve probably heard this story a million times.)
Our friend is in desperate need. Fortunately, the way he was travelling is a well trodden path and it’s not long before someone comes by. And through his eyes, swollen by the bruises, he sees potential hope in the form of a priest. Here’s a man from the temple, a man from the same culture and religion. But as soon as the priest notices the man, he crosses over to the other side of the road. Our travelling friend grimaces in pain and closes his eyes. He can hardly breathe; his ribcage sears with pain. The heat is unbearable for anyone, let alone someone in this condition. He is desperate.
There are more footsteps and our dehydrated and dying traveller opens his eyes again to see a Levite, someone set aside for religious duty. The second man is in just as much hurry as the first and when he reaches our friend in distress, he has a quick look and then he also crosses the road! Again, here’s a man from the same religious background, travelling the same road, walking the same A to B path. But there’s no time to stop.
Both these men were well-versed in the Scripture. They knew God (or thought they knew Him). They undertook religious rituals each day and were part of the established religious elite. However, when an opportunity presented itself in front of them in the form of a beaten traveller – an opportunity to love someone from the same religious background – they chose to cross over to the other side of the road. I don’t know their reasoning – was it because helping the man would lead to ‘religious uncleanliness’? Was it because the man was from a different social background and the two passersby believed themselves to be superior to him? Was it because they didn’t want to waste their money or effort on the man? Was it because they were in a rush and they just didn’t have enough damn time? Or maybe they just couldn’t be bothered?
Whatever the reason, it’s got me questioning – how often do we, the church family, do exactly the same?
- How many Sunday mornings do we spend avoiding conversation with certain people because they’re awkward?
- How often do we flee from opportunities to love people because they are different to us?
- How often do we miss our chance to make a difference because we don’t want to inconvenience ourselves?
- How often have we avoided sitting next to someone at church because we don’t like their personality?
- How often have we groaned inwardly because a really needy person or a really difficult person to talk to has sat next to us?
- How often do we not have enough time to care?
- How often can we just not be bothered?
#allin love is practical love.
Thankfully for the man left on the side of the road someone did help. The person who helped was a stranger, a foreigner. He was a man from a different culture, a man with different religious beliefs, a man considered to be an enemy. But he stoops down low, bandages the wounds with oil and wine, gives him his own donkey and takes him to a place where he can rest and recover – paying for that accommodation out of his own pocket.
I don’t have enough fingers to count the amount of times I’ve missed these moments where love could have shined so very brightly. Whereas the Samaritan man realised that love transcended borders, beliefs and backgrounds, I don’t think I’m always quite there yet.
I’ve had various people come to me over the years and talk about seemingly hopeless situations. They had been robbed and were badly beaten on the side of the road. Their bruises were depression, their throbbing pain was a lack of self-esteem, their broken bones were a lonely emptiness. And I’d listen to these people sincerely, sometimes even helping a little bit, but at a distance. And, without realising, I’d palm people off with a great line: “oh, sorry to hear that, I’ll be praying for you.” Sometimes even in a text message. Now, I know there are some amazing prayer warriors around. Prayer is fundamental, but it was so very easy for me to say that. It was my equivalent of having a quick look and then crossing over to the other side of the road. I might have prayed a quick one liner, but what does the lonely person need? Friends, family, community. What’s the hopeless person need? Authentic hope found as we walk through the hardships of life in community. So often that has been me crossing the road. What’s your equivalent?
This is not the love that Jesus modelled!
The love that Jesus showed IS MORE than a text message. It’s more than our judgemental thoughts. It’s like that Samaritan who went beyond the call of duty for an enemy. It has a practical element that meets people where they are with what they need. It’s not half-hearted, it’s not reluctant… it’s #allin. Fact. I’ve been on a journey learning about this for the last few years.
Jesus got alongside the people that the rest of the population thought were a waste of space. He touched the lepers, He stopped and went to tea with the hated tax collectors and He spent time with prostitutes and valued them for who they were. He picked a bunch of uneducated fisherman as His inner circle of friends. He gets down and washes our feet – He serves us even though He is King.
#allin compassion is gut wrenching.
When it comes to love, Jesus went #allin. He didn’t settle for ‘love’ at a distance. He didn’t cross the road to get away from the ‘difficult’ people. No, Jesus had compassion. It oozes from the pages of all four Gospels – just look how many times it says “Jesus looked at [the person] and had compassion”. What’s compassion? Two definitions from the dictionary:
- “deep awareness of suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it”
- “a feeling of distress and pity for the suffering or misfortune of another, often including the desire to alleviate it”
Do we have deep awareness for the people around us? Do we have that desire to alleviate distress and misfortune of our brothers and sisters around us? Jesus did. Even more interesting is that the Greek word that the Bible uses for ‘compassion’ is splancthna, which literally means ‘bowels’. That’s right – Jesus’ compassion was a deep pain in the gut. It wasn’t pretty. It was gut-wrenching. I know people say that love is not a feeling and I’m not saying that we should all aim to be Myers-Briggs personality type ‘feelers’, but love has to move us. Jesus’ heart broke for the people around Him – He experienced pain inside His stomach – a deep longing, a gut-wrenching compassion. When Jesus looked at people, He felt something. A kick or punch in the stomach that drove Him to the outcasts, the untouchables, the hated and the rejected.
When we turn away, He does not turn away.
Oh God, I want to love like you. I want to go #allin. I want to love like this.
My question is this: are we going to be a church full of priests and Levites who are close enough to see, but don’t have enough love to stop? Or are we going to ask God to release a deep compassion within us so that we can love our brothers and sisters around us?
What would happen if we got this right within the church? No more half-hearted “Sure, I’ll pray for you” texts, no more avoiding the easily avoidable, no more conversations behind people’s back, no more whispers in the corridors, no more malicious rumour, no more empty conversation. But instead… real, gritty, authentic love. Meeting people where they’re at. Giving them time. Meeting their needs. Loving them. Because in a way, that’s revolutionary – a place where #allin love and compassion reigns; a place where everyone is loved and valued for who they are; a place where needs are met. And maybe that spills out onto the streets, maybe we become known for love rather than hate and judgement, maybe that’s the catalyst for transformation. Is that what the church family could be?
It’s worth a try.
You can see why Paul said that without love we’ve got nothing.
Because without love, we’ve not got a thing.
God, teach us to love like you.
#allin love, #allin compassion. Or nothing.