By Josh Dyson, Classical School of Wichita
Note: This series was adapted from a talk I gave at the Classical Christian Schools Forum hosted by School of the Ozarks on Friday, March 3, 2017.
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 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. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 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.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10.29-37
The elevator creaked then jolted to a stop on the 11th floor of this inner-city, government-subsidized, high-rise apartment building. As if finagling its fingers into that elevator car and prying open the doors, it hit me… that smell… the smell of humans—humans, neglected by others and neglected by their own selves. Smell it… Months without being able to get soap and water into the crevices of their bellies, weeks of milk left spilled behind the fridge, days of tuna left open on the counter… Smell it!
Up until this time I had loved the homeless, cared deeply for the neglected, earnestly desired to be near those left beside the highways and the byways… up until this time. For at this time, that “love”, that “care”, and that “desire” was eviscerated from my heart and my olfactory flesh embalmed my soul with the formaldehyde of disgust. This was not a personal disgust against any individual, but was rather a despair of types—a despair of coming face-to-face (or nose-to-nose) with what real needy and broken people smell like. How easy it was to love them from afar, when they were simply the “homeless”, the “broken”, the “needy”, or just “people”.
And there are many other stories like this one—I’m sure you might even have similar stories. I recall another event when I was a stalwart, 18-year-old Christian, who “just knew” that God had called me to move to Costa Rica to be a missionary because I had such a great “love” for the nation of Costa Rica, but when I arrived there I found that I didn’t much like many Costa Ricans at all.
This seems to be a common problem for many of us. As Christians it is easy to hide behind “Love God and Love People”. We love that phrase. It has even become the theme of many of our churches, ministries and programs. The problem is not the phrase itself but rather our human tendency to turn specifics into abstracts. Abstracts are easier to deal with because they are impersonal and require no real commitment. Jesus battles this tendency in the gospels. They ask, “Is it right to pay taxes?” Jesus says, “Whose picture is on that coin?” They argue, “Who has the authority to forgive sins?” Jesus says, “Take up your mat and walk.” Jesus’ opponents wanted to quibble in the abstract. Jesus brought them back to the concrete and particular.
The problem with “Love God and love people” is that God does not call us to “love people”. Instead he calls us to “love our neighbor”. The difference might sound like mere nomenclature, but I believe it is highly significant that God calls us to “love our neighbor”. The reason is that “our neighbor” is a particular person in space and time—a human being, born on a particular date, to a particular family, in a particular location. They have a particular disposition, particular weaknesses, a particular number of hairs on their heads, and a peculiar… I mean particular… smell.
It is easy to think, “This doesn’t apply to me”, but I challenge you to heed Søren Kierkegaard’s counsel in For Self Examination. When reading the story of the Good Samaritan (see passage above) he challenges us to sit in the place of the priest and the Levite rather than to assume that we are the Good Samaritan in the story. He says, “When you read God’s Word, in everything you read, continually to say to yourself: it is I to whom it is speaking, it is I about whom it is speaking…” He continues regarding the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan, “You are not to say, ‘It is not I: after all, it was a priest, and I am not a priest; I do, however, find it admirable of the Gospel to have it be a priest, because the priests are the worst of all.’ No, when you read God’s Word, it must be in earnest and you must say to yourself, ‘This priest is I myself….’”
In this series of blogs we will consider the following: 1) God’s particular love; 2) that the abstraction of “people” leads to non-love; 3) and that God has placed particular people in your schools and lives to love. I will then elaborate on the problem created by our failure to love particularly and conclude by giving actions to take to learn to love as Jesus commanded us.
Mr. Josh Dyson is in his third year as the Director of Operations at CSW. Prior to joining the CSW family, Mr. Dyson served as the Chaplain, as well as teaching Bible and Latin at Houston’s First Baptist Academy. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Languages and Christianity from Houston Baptist University in 2007. Additionally, he has done graduate work at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and at Houston Baptist University. Mr. Dyson and his wife, Julie, have been married for 10 years. They have three children, and another on the way: Deacon, a first grader at CSW; Noelle, 4; Daisy, 2 and another daughter, expected any day.