Maximal Christianity—Eighth Sunday of Luke

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.

Many in our world, even those who call themselves Christian, try to see a difference between the Old and the New Testament.  They see the God of the Old as a vengeful god, a jealous god, a violent god, whereas Christ comes preaching a loving God.  Such people, my dear brothers and sisters, are wrong: they are preaching an ancient heresy called Marcionism which has been rightly condemned by the Church.  As the Psalmist tells us,

The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.

Psalm 102:8–13 lxx

The mercy and love of God towards us is evident throughout the Old Testament and we see Christ confirming it in today’s Gospel.  The lawyer came, not wishing to learn from the one whom Moses met on Sinai—he who gave the Law and inscribed with his own finger the Ten Commandments on stone tablets (Exodus 31:18)—but to trap the Lawgiver.  He came wanting to see if Christ would go against Moses.  Yet the Lord, who knew the heart of the lawyer and knows our hearts, confirmed to him what he had confirmed through Moses by the lawyer’s own words, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18)

My dear brothers and sisters, we read today’s familiar parable and we wonder, “Who am I in this story?”  And we sit and think and console ourselves, “I am the man beaten by thieves,” because of the trials we go through.  “I try, to the best of my ability,” I convince myself, “to be the Good Samaritan—it is a work in progress.”  Yet in reality I am the lawyer.  I come testing the Lord, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  In other words, “What’s the minimum I must do to be a true follower of Christ?”  This minimal Christianity is no Christianity.  It is what the lawyer was seeking—perhaps for different reasons than I am—and it leads away from God.  Imagine this question in other spheres, “What’s the least I must do in my family, in my marriage, in my friendships?” and how self-centred that sounds yet I so easily ask this of God.

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we should not seek from the Lord minimal Christianity because in our lukewarmness for the Lord we would serve no one save ourselves and be rejected by him (see Apocalypse 3:16).  We seek rather maximal Christianity and offer our whole selves to the Lord, looking to follow him not only on a Sunday morning but in our entire lives: offering as much as we can to him, and a little more, that we may come to know his Truth which will set us free from our slavery to sin (see John 8:31–36).

To our risen and glorified Saviour, the Lawgiver, Jesus Christ our True God be all glory, honour and might, together with his loving Father and All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit, Amen.

Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
— First Corinthians 4:9–16

At that time, a lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.
— Luke 10:25–37