This is one of the most racially charged, politically crazy times our country has ever seen. People are mad at each other based on what they post on social media or what their bumper sticker says. It’s so easy for us to get angry and worked up by people who have a different opinion than ours. We need to take all that passion and hostility toward people and turn it into love for others. You need to love them, because if you don’t love them, then His kingdom can’t come to them. Let me put it another way: if you’re mad at somebody, you will also be mad at Jesus.
In Matthew 5:43–48, Jesus says: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
You see, upsetters love people. All kinds of people. They even love people who have different political views. They love people who hate them and people who despise them. Upsetters love people who are unlovable. They love everybody. You have to love Jesus first. It’s the only way you can love people who don’t love you. If you’re only going and praying for people who are amicable to you, who like you, who respond well to you, then you’re never going to advance His kingdom. Unless you start targeting people who are a little bit obstinate, who are rude, who don’t like you that much, who have anger issues, who need an attitude adjustment, you’re never going to be a real upsetter.
As a believer, you’re an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Through Him, you have the power to change the atmosphere. And the way you do that is by taking on the mind of Jesus and saying, “I’m just going to love everybody the same way You did.” It doesn’t mean you have to like what they’re saying or doing, but you do have to love them right where they are. You have to die to your will and respond with the nature and character of Christ Jesus.
Jesus disturbed the religious atmosphere everywhere He went, and He did it by loving people. Every time He went to a city, He would do great deeds for people who were disenfranchised, sick, or poor. He was just nice to people, even those who didn’t seem to warrant such generosity. The only people who had a real problem with Jesus were the religious people, and it was because He was doing things that didn’t fit in their religious box. It didn’t fit with what had been written for them in the Mosaic Law, which they had been practicing, rehearsing, and memorizing for literally thousands of years.
One of the best examples of this is in Luke 10:25–37 where Scripture tells us about a religious expert who approached Jesus and asked, “How am I supposed to have eternal life?” Now before I tell you how Jesus responded, I want you to understand what a religious expert was. In this context, a religious expert was the equivalent to a lawyer. He wasn’t just a person who went to church and studied the Bible. He was a person who was considered well-versed in the Torah, understood the context of the Old Testament, and would debate anybody who didn’t see the Scriptures in the same way he did. And much like an attorney, when he asked Jesus this question, he already had the answer in his mind.
Have you ever had a conversation like this with someone? They ask you a question, but they already know where they want you to go with the answer. There’s a little bit of sauce in their tone when they ask, “You’re not going to wear that shirt, are you?” or “Did you really like that movie?” I usually respond to questions like this with, “Well, based on your tone, I can tell you didn’t like it!” This is how it was when the religious expert asked Jesus, “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). He knew what he thought the answer was and wanted to hear what Jesus would say.
And I love Jesus’ response. He said, “Why don’t you tell Me how you see it? You’re the legal dude in the room, so why don’t you tell Me how you interpret it?”
“Well, I’m supposed to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind. And I’m to love my neighbor as myself.”
What’s interesting about the religious expert’s response to Jesus is that he was talking about securing eternal life, yet he was actually piecing together two Old Testament Scriptures. He first quoted a portion of the Shama, which is Deuteronomy 6:4–9. He quoted verse 5 when he said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Then he added Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Much to the religious expert’s surprise, Jesus agreed! “That’s exactly right! If you do this, you’ll really live!”
Jesus was saying that if you really love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind, you will be living the life you were called to live. And if you love your neighbor as yourself, it just gets even more enjoyable. It doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be people you have problems with or oppositions against. But if you do the first thing, the second thing becomes something you can do. If you really love God, then you can love your neighbor.
It’s impossible to love—really love—people out of our own emotional wealth of happiness and generosity. It’s only an overflow of our relationship with God that makes it possible to deal with people and love them. And not only the kind of people you tend to like or gravitate toward but also the kind of people you don’t.
But the story doesn’t end there. The religious expert decided to test Jesus further. When he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5, the man was referring to his fellow Israelites, people who were just like him. Ready for a debate over this loophole, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
Not willing to be drawn into a debate, Jesus answered his question with a story about a Jewish man who was making the treacherous journey from Jerusalem to Jericho (Luke 10:30–37). The distance between these two cities was more than a 25 kilometers with a 3,300-foot descent in altitude. Not only was it a long and difficult walk, but it was also littered with bandits who were trying to take advantage of people and rob them. As he was walking, the man was pummeled by bandits who stripped him, beat him, and left him half dead on the side of the road.
As he was lying there, a priest walked up and saw him. Instead of helping the man, though, the priest crossed to the other side of the road and kept walking. He literally passed him by. Let me just stop here and say Jesus is setting up a brilliant story. This guy was half dead on the side of the road, and out of all the people He could have said came by, Jesus chose a priest. He could have chosen a tax collector, a guy who worked in the local market, or a rich, Roman centurion. But Jesus said a priest came by. In other words, a senior pastor just happened to be walking down the street on the same day this dude got the snot kicked out of him. And the senior pastor looked at him, but because he was in a hurry and had to get to his church service that started at 10 o’clock, he went to the other side of the road and kept walking.
Now, here’s the thing that baffles me. I’ve read commentaries that seem to justify the priest’s actions. One of them even said a high priest couldn’t touch a dead body because it would make him ceremonially unclean and not allow him to go to his place of worship. While that’s true, there’s one problem. The man was not dead; he was half dead, which meant he was also half alive. Consider how many people don’t want to deal with people’s issues because they only look at their half-dead side and not the other side that’s still alive. And Jesus said that’s exactly what this priest did; he went to the other side of the road and kept walking.
Then Jesus rubbed it in a little more and said a temple assistant—the senior pastor’s associate pastor—walked over, looked at him, and then crossed to the other side of the road and kept walking. Once again, Jesus didn’t choose to use a regular Jewish guy; He chose the second in command of the church. And what he did was actually worse than the priest, because he walked up to the man and was close enough to see him wounded and battered almost to death, yet he still chose not to do anything about it. This sounds a lot like religion. (We’ll talk more about how much Jesus hates religion later in the book because there’s a lot to unpack.) In the end, both men were close enough to see what the situation was, but they chose to honor their religious rules rather than get involved.
Here’s where the story gets really good. Jesus decided to throw a grenade and blow up this man’s religious thinking. And it wasn’t just any grenade, nor just any explosion. It was a frag grenade, so chunks were flying out of it that were meant to rip into all of the religiosity for anyone and everyone within earshot of where Jesus was speaking. Here’s what He said:
Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, “Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here” (Luke 10:33–37).
Are you kidding me? A despised Samaritan! The priest didn’t stop to help. The temple assistant barely slowed down before he crossed the road to leave. But the Samaritan not only stopped and helped him, but he also took his oil and wine and began nursing the Jewish man’s wounds right there on the side of the road. Then he went a step further by taking him to safety and paying for a nice room in an inn so he could recover in comfort. The Samaritan even told the innkeeper,“Hey, if this is not enough money, I’ll settle the debt when I come back in town. Just keep him here until he’s feeling better.”
This story is so crazy! While it may not seem alarming to you, to the man Jesus was talking to, it was shocking. It was very strategic for Jesus to use a Samaritan man as an illustration in his story because during this time Jews hatedSamaritans. When Assyria overtook the region of Israel and colonized it, many of the Israelites who lived there married the Assyrians in the region of Samaria. So Samaritans were half-Assyrian and half-Israeli. Essentially, they were biracial.
I often wonder what story Jesus would have told to ruffle our feathers and get us upset in 2019. It would be just like Him to say, “A man was beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road, and a republican walked by but then kept on going. Then a democrat walked over to him, but she didn’t stop either. Instead, she turned around and went the other way. But then, a despised communist walked up to the guy and showed him compassion and took care of his wounds.” This is the kind of stuff I love about Jesus. He throws stories like this out there and gets people upset. He may not be walking on the earth today, but He’s still doing it.
The story ends with Jesus asking the man, “Now, based on everything I just said, which of these three do you think was the neighbor?” This man’s religiosity must have been choking him. Can you imagine the look on his face as Jesus asked this? But Jesus wouldn’t let up. He was going to make this man say the Samaritan was the neighbor! The Samaritan was the one whom this man was supposed to love as much as he loved himself. It was fantastic! The religious leader kind of choked and said, “The one who showed him mercy.” He couldn’t even say the name “Samaritan.” And Jesus ended the conversation, “Yes, now go and do the same” (v. 37). This man believed he should love only his fellow Israelites and was trying to trap Jesus into saying something contrary to the Torah. But this was actually worse than he could have ever imagined because Jesus just told him to go and be like a Samaritan!
What is Jesus after? He wants us to love people. And that means everybody! Most of us have some people group we despise. It may not even be at a conscious level; it may be subconscious. It may be a way you were raised or the way you were taught or the way you’ve been conditioned. Whatever it is, something in our culture is shaping you to despise people. This spirit of division has a lot of names, and the prevalent one in the United States is racism. As believers, we have to understand this is just a spirit of division. Sadly, this isn’t just an issue outside the Church. It’s inside the Church too. And the only way to defeat it is through love. I’m talking about a deep kind of love. You love Jesus enough to allow Him to come for the stuff on the inside of you that blocks you from genuinely loving people whom you would normally despise.
Taken from Tim Ross’s book Upset the World.