Uneven Ground, part I - “Go and do likewise”
“Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” - Isaiah 40:4
In Luke’s gospel, chapter 10, after telling the parable of the “Good” Samaritan, Jesus is quoted as saying this to the lawyer who asked “Who is my neighbor?”
“Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? He (the lawyer) said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
For 2,000-plus years, this directive and the new commandment to “love your neighbor” have driven charitable Christian work. Each of us has an opportunity and obligation to fulfill this guidance in our own way and as our means allow. One of the simplest and most direct ways to show love for neighbors in need is to help fill their physical need for food. Simple, yet profound, and not without challenges.
Each Sunday at my church, teams of cooks and servers from various other churches and organizations do just that. The teams prepare the best meals within their means –my church has a budget granted for this mission by our leadership – and serves anyone who shows up in our hall. They did so throughout the pandemic, serving meals to go outside the church, and now back inside with the blessing of air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. They ask no questions of faith practice, gender identity, age, sexual preference, or what led a neighbor to be in need – if a person shows up, they are served. Like the Samaritan in the parable, the teams act, not waiting for someone else or the government to fill this role of serving our neighbors.
Recently, a town in this country (I’m not going to name names, for that’s not my point or goal), warned (threatened to fine) a church for conducting just this type of mission for their neighbors in need. A zoning officer cited the church for going beyond their permitted status as a church in providing weekly meals, and coordinating monthly free counseling services and other physical needs (food pantry, toiletries, etc). That may be a story worth following, but here’s my point – the Church is not a “property” or building, or land. The Church is people. And like countless others not in the news, including my own church and our partners, these folks are just following the directive to help neighbors who have, for whatever reasons not to be questioned or judged, are in need.
“Go and do likewise” He said.