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who's line is it anyway?

yesterday i preached my second sermon at Catawissa Avenue UMC (cat ave umc), and i used the image of a plumbline from amos 7 as a metaphor for our own spiritual health.  a plumbline, of course, is a tool that is used to make sure things like walls are standing straight up and down, and it is a way to measure if something is "in line." 

we do this all the time.  we measure ourselves to see if we are in line.  we measure ourselves against others regularly, and whether we say it out loud or somewhere subliminally, we are often guilty of a kind of "better than them" mentality.  "at least i'm not like so-and-so," we think to ourselves.  "i would never treat my kids like that," or, "i would never act that way," becomes a common refrain in our heads.  we use this kind of thinking to justify ourselves or blind ourselves to our own behavior.  we are measuring ourselves with a plumbline of our own choosing, and it looks to us like we are "in line." 

but who's line is it anyway? 

the other text i used yesterday was Jesus' story about the good samaritan.  sadly, it's a story that has become sickeningly familiar.  this is truly a shame because the truth is that this story is kind of a "grab-you-by-your-shirt-collar-and-shake-you-up" kind of story.  Jesus knew that the people he was talking to had been measuring themselves against the samaritans ("we would never act like those people!") and coming up roses.  so he told this story about a Jew who get's beaten and robbed and left to die on the road.  and priest walks by.  and a levite walks by.  these are the respected people.  these people are "in line" if anyone is.  but all they do in the story is toe the line and walk right by the need in front of their faces.  then comes the punchline.  a samaritan ("ewww...yuck!") walks by and sees the hurting man, and proceeds to help him up and give him a ride and put him up for the night. 

clearly the righteous ones were in line, like you and i are, but who's line is it anyway? 

Jesus told this story as an answer to a question.  a lawyer had just been asking Jesus about the main thing in the law.  it goes like this:

lawyer:  "hey Jesus, you seem like a pretty cool rabbi.  you've got some interesting things to say, i'm not going to lie.  in your opinion, though, what do i have to do to get eternal life?"
Jesus:  "'re a lawyer, right?  why are you asking me?  don't you read the law?  what does it say?"
lawyer:  "well, you know, the standard stuff about loving God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and loving your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus:  "well, that's it then.  just do it.  if you actually do it, then you will actually live." 
lawyer: "okay that's great, but what i'm getting at here is, who is really my neighbor?  who do i have to love in order to get this eternal life?"

and here's where Jesus tells the story.  here's where Jesus figuratively reaches into the ol' toolbox and pulls out a plumbline.  "want to know if you are in line with God's plan?  here, use this.  it's called love." 

in kids own worship yesterday they were talking about this story and one of the teachers asked Jackson about who his neighbors are, and he matter-of-factly told them:  everyone is our neighbor. 

yep.  everyone is our neighbor.  even the samaritans. even those people.  stop measuring yourself by how you compare to them and start loving them.  stop using the line about doing better than so-and-so, because, who's line is that, anyway?  start using the line of God's love as your standard, even when it shows you to be badly out of balance.  it's time to get back in line with love. 


Anonymous said…
This was an awesome application of both Scriptures! Powerful and so true! Thanks for sharing!

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