14 Dec What Matters Most BY MICHELLE WALLACE

Recently, I’ve been reminded of the simple gospel—love. Receiving God’s love for ourselves and loving others. When an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking what he should do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked, “Well, what does the law say? How do you read it?”

The man answered, “’You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In other words, “how little can I get away with…?” Jesus blows all his religious paradigms by telling a story. The story is about a man beaten and left for dead. While others passed him by, a certain Samaritan showed up and had compassion on the man. Now, Samaritans showed hatred and hostility to Jews traveling to Jerusalem, so much so that many Jews preferred to bypass the region of Samaria entirely and to pass on the east side of the Jordan. The Jews responded by publicly cursing the Samaritans in synagogue services and refusing to accept their witness in court. So this story gave new meaning to “my neighbor.”

Jesus said, “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.” The Lord has been impressing the importance of the command to “Go” into all the world, especially the Samaria’s, the places of deep darkness where others refuse to go.

My friend Amanda lives in Burkina Faso, Africa. She tells stories the way Jesus did to help the people understand God’s great love for them. Some might think she’s crazy to risk her life for a people in a remote jungle. I think she’s learned how to love the way Jesus loves. She admits it’s not always easy.

AMANDA WRITES:  “Living overseas for an extended period of time can cause you to become numb to your surroundings. You are always reminded of the crazy things that have become your normal when volunteers arrive. They are seeing it all with fresh eyes. Are people riding motos with their sheep/goat not a normal thing everywhere? You mean masked men chasing random  bystanders  down  the  street  is frowned upon where you live? Do donkeys not roam the highways in the US? Does public transportation back home ignore the challenge of stacking baggage sky-high for a cross-country trip? These things rarely catch my eye anymore. Occasionally there will be something so over-the-top that I have to stop and snap a picture. But for the most part, the ridiculous has become part of the rhythm of everyday life.

“The numbness presents itself in more serious ways, as well. It’s easy to lose sight of why we are here. We get caught up in the busyness of life. Drama at church demands our attention. Visits have to be made to keep folks from griping about how long it’s been since the last time they saw you. Bills have to be paid. Repairs need to be done. And the list goes on and on. You feel weary and think at times you are just spinning your wheels. Why are you really here?

“And then something happens that serves as a wake-up call. A bush taxi collides with an oncoming car 40km outside of town and 11 of the 19 passengers die. A friend’s older sister is among the injured. As you walk into the emergency area at the hospital, you’re surrounded by people whose lives are being drastically changed by this accident. You see the faces of men, women…kids who will never return home. And later that evening, you get the call that your friend’s older sister died from her injuries.

“It’s easy to grow numb to the harshness of life here. But then people you know die. And they don’t know Jesus. It’s heavy. And it’s heartbreaking. But it serves as a reminder that life is short. No guarantee of tomorrow. “It serves as a reminder of why we are here.”

“As we sat in the village for this lady’s funeral, we were surrounded by people mourning with no hope. They wailed as the

body was brought into the compound. They wondered  if  she  had  done  enough  good  to be accepted. And they cried out to a god that will never respond, as her body was put in the ground. No hope. No assurance. No realization of their need for a Savior.

“But that’s why we are here. To share of the hope that is within us. To share about a God who sent his only son to save a lost and dying world. And to share about a love that can and will transform families, villages and nations.”

Pray for the people of Burkina Faso. Pray that they will come to know God as Father and Jesus as Lord and Savior. And pray for those of us living and working among the lost. Ask that we not grow weary, and that we share the good news with a sense of urgency and that we would be found loving others well.

Connect with Michelle at HANDOFTHEKING.com