“But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” Luke 10:33
We can learn a lot about ministry–loving our neighbors–from the parable of the good Samaritan. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Ministry starts with real needs. In this case, the poor man was beaten and left on the side of the road. He needed rest, food, and shelter, etc. This is a broken word and the needs are nearly infinite. Someone may need a cup of water, a visit, a word of encouragement, new clothes, a job, a good listener…you get the picture. At times, we can become enamored with a fabulous idea to help someone but everything falls flat because we’re going after a need that doesn’t actually exist.
The need must be seen by a person with enough passion to act. Many of us are blind to the needs of others, especially when we are young in the faith or caught in habitual, unconfessed sin. In this parable, the traveling Samaritan saw the hurt person on the side of the road, and did something about it. Perception and passion are essential. It is not enough to be observant, but lacking in passion. The religious leaders saw the need, but did nothing!
Ministry is meeting needs in love. The needs are real, not invented. The needs are met, not ignored. Love is action, not a comfortably held opinion.
Ministry can get complex: plans and problems will drain away simplicity. In many cases, it is necessary to have a detailed and careful plan. Often we face difficult problems that redefine the situation–new context means new approaches.
However, the complexity must not choke out the essentials. When we loose sight of the fundamentals, we run the risk of getting trapped in unbreakable and ineffective traditions.
If we’re failing to act, we must cultivate our passion.
If we’re failing to help, we must discern the needs before we evaluate our methods.
If we’re not meeting a need in love, then what we think is ministry is actually recreation.
One final thought. As leaders, we often see more needs than we can meet. We don’t have enough time or resources to do everything. Why would God be so cruel to open our eyes to more pain than we can help? I’ll post about that after the weekend. Until then, how do you resolve that tension?