An Answering Person Or An Answering Machine?
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I know telephone answering machines are efficient, but that doesn't mean I have to like them. Actually, some of those machines can be entertaining. Some of my friends do major productions or comedy monologs on theirs. But those machines just don't respond. They record, but they don't respond. One friend captured how I feel in a tongue-in-cheek recording he leaves on his machine. You call, the machine picks up, and you hear my friend's voice saying, "In a world of cold and uncaring humans, isn't it refreshing to be greeted by a warm and friendly answering machine?" No! You just can't automate a personal response!
Actually, when it comes to the needs around you, you're probably one or the other: an answering person or an unresponsive answering machine. Jesus was trying to point that out in Luke 10:30-34. It's our word for today from the Word of God. He says, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, they beat him, they went away, leaving him half dead."
"A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine..."
It's a great story, huh? Yeah, it's a troubling story, too, though. It's the professional God-lovers - the priest and the Levite - who don't stop for this obvious human need. And it's a Samaritan, one considered a spiritual reject by the Jews, who responds as Jesus would with above and beyond love.
Like me, you may be very involved in Christian activities and programs, and that can become a trap. I believe the priest and the Levite knew about meeting needs. I believe they knew about helping wounded people. But they may have confined their response to programs for helping, to meetings to plan programs, to theological concepts about love and mercy and compassion. Tragically, the longer you've been around Christian things, the more you tend to replace personal acts of love with programs and structures.
You know, it goes like this: "We have a program that ministers to the poor, the homeless, the brokenhearted, and the hurting. We have meetings that present Christ to lost and dying people. We're having a seminar on reaching people for the Lord." Answering machines; machines to answer the calls of men and women in need. Now I'm very much in favor of organized, large-scale efforts to respond to the desperate people around us. But they are no substitute for you being a good Samaritan yourself, for the natural flow of love and mercy that stops for someone who needs money, or a listening ear, a word of encouragement, or a chance to hear about Christ's love.
Like the Good Samaritan, I hope you don't lose that beautiful characteristic of your Master. I would call it a breakable heart. Sometime this week, you will almost surely encounter someone who is wounded or without Christ. Will you excuse yourself because you're busy in a lot of Christian activity - your answering machines? Or will you stop and be the answer with a loving, personal, above-and-beyond response? When the people around you call, they need an answering person, not an answering machine!
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