We can inherit eternal life by "doing." Jesus said so in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
"What shall I do," asked the lawyer, "to inherit eternal life?"
"What does the law say?" countered Jesus.
"Love God and love thy neighbor," the lawyer replied.
"Right!" said Jesus, "This do and thou shalt live!"
Saved by Love
This do! Think of it! There is something we can do to be saved. We can be saved by love.
Now, on the surface, this sounds simple. But it is not. The love that saves is no ordinary love ... it is extraordinary. It is a love that only God can give. Let me explain.
The lawyer was a great "doer." He expected his question to trigger an inquiry on the part of Jesus into his excellent "doing." He was prepared to tell of his church attendance, his many hours in prayer, his faithfulness in tithing, his fasting, and his strict adherence to the letter of the law. He was confident that his "doing" could hold its own with the "doing" of any other man.
But he never got a chance to list his accomplishments. Jesus made him come to grips with the "why" of his doing rather than the "what" of his doing. By referring to the law about loving, Jesus was saying, "Doing doesn't count unless loving motivates it."
What a lesson! We, too, are great "doers.'' Look at all the wonderful programs we have. Light-for-the-Lost... Women's Ministries ... Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade ... Speed-the-Light... Royal Rangers ... Missionettes ... and on and on. Marvelous! But could it be that we are counting on our "doing" to win us "brownie points" toward eternal life? Let us remember that what was good for the lawyer "goose" applies equally to the Assemblies of God "gander"! "Doing" doesn't count unless "loving" motivates it.
Love God and Your Neighbor
It is significant to note that when the lawyer wanted to talk about "doing," Jesus switched the subject to "loving." The answer to the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" is "Love God and love thy neighbor!"
Now the lawyer had no problem with the "love God" part. After all, who can dispute the claim of a man who says, "I love God?" We are all great "lovers" when it comes to loving God. "I love you, God. I love you, Jesus. I'm in love, deeply in love, with the lover of my soul." We say it, and we sing it. We shout it for all to hear ... and no one ever challenges us. How can they? Our love for God is hard to prove ... or to disprove.
But the "neighbor" bit... ah, that is another kettle of fish! Anyone can see whether we love our neighbor or not. Our actions and our reactions toward others speak loud and clear. If you don't believe it, just analyze your emotions the next time a family of another race moves in next door.
And this was exactly the lawyer's problem. He made great claims as a lover of God. He was deeply religious. No one could dispute that. But love for his neighbor? Well... that depended ... So he said, "Who is my neighbor?" In other words, "Who must I love?"
The word "love" has lost its meaning in a warped world.
One man's love is another man's lust. Much love is sensuous, selfish and selective. Sensuous because it is limited to the senses ... selfish because man loves himself more than his neighbor ... and selective because it is reserved for "its kind of people."
Some say love of self is scriptural. They quote the passage that says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." They say, "You can't love your neighbor unless you first love yourself." Tommy-rot! What a poor excuse for self-indulgence! God has never instructed us to love ourselves. However, He tells us again and again to deny ourselves and to seek our neighbor's good rather than our own. Why, then, did He say we should love our neighbor as ourselves? For the very good reason that most men are self lovers. God knows this. What better illustration could He use to indicate the degree of love we ought to be giving to our neighbors? He used the only language we can understand.
The lawyer's love was selective. He had no love for Samaritans. He showered his affection upon his family and friends ... but he felt no obligation to love those who were not "his kind of people." His motto was ... "Charity begins at home." The only trouble was that it not only began there ... it stopped there.
It was this selfish and selective love of the lawyer that prompted the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus' point was obvious. The priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side were a graphic picture of all who claim to have great love for God but who have little or none at all for their neighbors. You can almost see those religious bigots as they walked down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho piously proclaiming, "I love God ... I love God!" You can see them pause as they come in sight of the wounded man ... take a quick look ... and then hurry on ... still blatantly boasting, "I love God ... I love God!" "Doing" had very little to do with their "loving."
That is why, when the lawyer asked about "loving," Jesus switched the subject to "doing." He made His second point. "Loving doesn't count unless doing demonstrates it."
Love for our neighbor is not something God drops into our hearts during a prayer session at the altar. It is not proven by vain repetitions of "I love you, Jesus; I love you, Jesus." No, friend! Love for our neighbor comes through interaction with our neighbor. Words of love must be followed by deeds of love. How often, after a "love time" with God at an altar, have we bypassed neighbors in desperate need of love as we journeyed home! Ah, my brother ... "loving" doesn't count unless "doing" demonstrates it.
So what kind of doing and loving saves?
There are dozens of "doers," but not all of them will inherit eternal life. Why? Because their "doing" was not done out of love for God and love for their neighbor. Such "doing" cannot save.
There are also "lovers" by the dozen. But not all "lovers" know what saving love really is. To some, love is sensuous self-gratification. To others, love is sentimental sharing. To yet others, love is selective and only for those who can reciprocate. This is not the kind of love that saves. Not at all.
There is a phrase in the parable that graphically reveals the nature of saving love.
The Good Samaritan placed the wounded man in the custody of the host with the words, "Take care of him." Then he said something significant. After giving two pence to the innkeeper, he said, "Whatsoever thou spendest more, I will repay when I come again."
Whatsoever thou spendest more! There it is! That's the nature of saving love. It spends more.
But more of what? More of most everything that matters! More of time ... more of strength ... more of money. Saving love spends more than society demands. It spends more than most church members are willing to do. It spends more than the law demands. Saving love goes beyond the call of duty. Saving love gives without measure. Saving love does not look at the tenth and say, "It is enough." Rather, it looks at the need and gives sacrificially. Saving love takes time to love. It goes out of its way to meet a need. Saving love becomes involved. It never asks others to do what it is unwilling to do. Saving love does not discriminate. It knows no racial or national boundaries. It brushes shoulders with people of every class. It goes the second mile, and turns the other cheek.
It loves when no love is returned. Saving love spends more ... and more ... and more ... and more ... and more ...
No wonder we say that saving love is no ordinary love. It doesn't come easy. In fact, it doesn't come at all unless the heart is changed by the power of God. "Ye must be bom again" is no trite saying. Nothing short of spiritual birth can make a man love his enemies or deny himself that his neighbors may be blessed. Saving love is divine love. It comes from the heart of God.
But what a wonderful promise to those who, having been bom from above, love enough to "spend more." Listen again to the words of the Good Samaritan. "Whatsoever thou spendest more, I will repay when I come again!" Hallelujah! He's coming again! And when He does, He will bring His reward with Him! Amen, and amen.