What Compels You to Ministry?

Posted on January 1, 2003

What compels a person to give Without thought of return from others— others they may never see again, others who may never get a chance, or even attempt, to say thank you? What compels you, and all who love Jesus and want to serve him, to devote yourselves to caring for the poor and underprivileged? The love of ]esus, of course—but is there is than that? I’d like to invite you to go with me on a journey through Luke 9 and 10, down the road of the Good Samaritan, as we explore this fundamental question together.

Let’s begin our journey in Luke 9. I suggest you get out your Bible and follow along. This will feel like familiar territory, but I want you to look with new eyes. I think you’ll be surprised by what you see as you put yourself in the shoes of the disciples.

The chapter begins with the Lord sending out the twelve disciples with the same mission that he himself fulfilled: to preach the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out devils. Jesus then gives the disciples proof of the divine power and presence among them when he feeds the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. Although the power that performs the multiplication is all his own, he invites his disciples to participate in the miracle by distributing the meal to those in need.

Jesus then retreats with his disciples and begins to speak not about his miraculous powers but about his suffering and death. He explains to his disciples that he will come “in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels,” but first he will suffer. But to strengthen their faith and to help them not lose heart, Jesus announces that some of them, before they tasted death, would see the kingdom of God.About eight days later, Jesus took the three who afterwards were pillars of the faith—Peter, James, and John—and went up into a mountain to pray. There Jesus is transfigured. He appears in his glory, and the three disciples are witnesses. Moses and Elijah are present with Jesus as well, and they speak with him of his death. In their presence with him, they acknowledge that the Mosaic law now yields to this new glory of Jesus; it all depends on the death of Christ, and on that alone.

When the disciples suggest building an altar to the three heroes of the faith to commemorate the occasion, God reveals himself in a cloud and confirms that Jesus is his Chosen One, the One to whom the disciples are to listen. Then Moses and Elijah disappear entirely, and Jesus remains alone with the three disciples. The old dispensation of the law (which Moses and Elijah represent) is replaced with the new dispensation of grace (which Jesus alone represents).

All is now changed in the relationship of God with humanity. Jehovah makes himself known as Father by revealing the Son. And the disciples find themselves connected on earth with the abode of glory, God himself. What a change for them! Remember, these are Jewish men who knew all too well the law of Moses; they knew the Levites as their mediators before God. This God-given change made all things new. It opened the door to a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ for all of humanity from that moment on.

Before the death of Christ, the disciples were unable to profit from the power of Jesus, manifested on the Mount of Transfiguration, to cast out the power of the enemy. The mission of the seventy, which immediately follows in Luke 10, is the application of this new power, this new revelation. In Luke 9 we saw the power and presence of God regarding missions. In Luke 10 we will see the nature of God regarding missions, and therefore regarding your ministry as health care providers.

The Lord now appoints seventy of his followers (ordinary, run-of-the-mill believers like us) and sends them, two-by-two, to do just what he told the twelve to do: preach the kingdom, heal the sick, and cast out devils. Jesus tells the seventy that, like the twelve, they are to trust in him. They are to go as the Lord’s laborers, as lambs among wolves. They will be distinguished by the effect of their mission on the heart, not judicially nor by the strict adherence to the law. These seventy were to exercise power gained by Jesus over the enemy and to declare unto those whom they visited that the kingdom of God was at hand.

Upon their return, the seventy announced the power that had accompanied their mission: demons were subject to their word. Jesus replied that in effect these “tokens” of power were only a sample, and that there was something more excellent than this—that they might rejoice that their names were written in heaven. The power manifested was true, its results sure. A heavenly people were dawning. This was the true reason of joy. The mandate of the Lord Iesus was to rejoice not in the kingdom established on earth but in the sovereign grace of God, who had granted them a place and name in heaven in direct connection with Jesus, with his death and resurrection on earth. These are the eternal things on which to stay focused; these are the ultimate lessons stressed in the mission of the seventy.

Having heard Jesus state the importance of the eternal, a Jewish lawyer, desiring to know how to inherit eternal life, asked Jesus a question (Luke10:25): “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” His question is derived from a Jewish understanding of eternal life connected to the observance of the law. The lawyer therefore asks, “What must I do?” The Lord replies with a question: “What is written in the law?” The lawyer responds, “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.” Jesus approves of his answer and says, “Do this, and you will live” (See Luke 10:25-28). Jesus says this to illustrate that although the law does contain truth, we cannot obtain eternal life by the law because we cannot obey it in full. Jesus’ death fulfilled all the requirements of the law. I believe that this is why they were discussing his death on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Jesus’ response prompts the lawyer to then ask another question: “Who then, is my neighbor?” Jesus now stops the man right in his tracks. He illustrates what he has just taught his disciples concerning the limits of the law versus the limits of grace in the well— known “Parable of the Good Samaritan”—and puts the lawyer to shame by it. Jesus had already taught the seventy that they should focus on the eternal aspect of their mission work. Now he turns to the moral nature of their mission work. The lawyer unknowingly expresses a fundamental issue in all of ethics: For whom are we responsible when it comes to justice and mercy?

]esus’ parable (Luke 10:30-36) tells of a man who, on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, was stripped of his clothing, wounded, and left half dead. A priest came by, saw him, and passed on the other side. Then a Levite came by, looked, and passed by on the other side. Finally a Samaritan came by, saw him, and had compassion on him. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds, set him on his animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. He even gave the innkeeper some money upon departing and said, “Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.” Jesus then asks the lawyer, “Who was the neighbor to the man in need?” The lawyer responds, “The one who showed him mercy. Jesus says, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

The fundamental issue in the parable has its roots in the Old Testament. The issue of “neighborliness” was acute among the Jews of that day because of their self-consciousness of being the “chosen people” of God, “sealed” in the rite of circumcision, “elect” and set apart. This all caused a tendency for the Jews to neglect, even condemn, those who were not Jews (perhaps similar to those “non-Christians” in our communities). This is why Moses had to provide legislation to encourage compassion and justice for the non-Jew in Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is an adaptation and expansion of much of the original law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Moses prescribed rites of conversion for the foreigners who wanted to eat Passover with the Jew and placed prohibitions on the full reaping of crops. But despite the law’s teaching that the Jews were to be kind to foreigners and treat them with compassion and justice, their emphasis was on showing “neighborliness” to fellow jews. It is understandable why the Jewish leaders would think of neighborliness as only an injunction for special treatment of fellow Jews (or, as we would put it today, fellow Christians).

Jesus, however, seeks to expand the concept of neighbor to include the non-Jew, and for us the non-Christian. While this concept is not contrary to Jewish law, it would pose some challenges to them, because for Jesus, a neighbor was anyone with whom you came into contact, whether Jew, Samaritan, or Gentile. Thus the parable of the Good Samaritan addresses the issue of “limits” of one’s responsibility. Jesus says that there are no limits, that one cannot exclusively exercise compassion or justice for one’s own kind alone. He teaches the importance of showing love for anyone within our reach. This type of "neighborliness," taught by Jesus, became the foundation for the early church’s missionary efforts. Jesus’ answer to the lawyer exhibits the moral change that has taken place by the introduction of graze through the person of Jesus Christ. Our relationships with one another are now measured by the divine nature in us, and this nature is love. The Samaritan did not ask who his neighbor was. He simply became a neighbor to anyone who was in need.

This, in fact, is what God himself did in Christ. The love that acted according to its own impulses found the occasion of its exercise in the need that came before it.

When I consider what you, as members or colleagues of CCHF, do for the poor and the non-Christians in various cities and rural communities across this country, I cannot help but ask myself what compels a person to give without thought of return from others—others they may never see again, others who may never say thank you. I conclude from, Luke 9 and 10 that what compels you, and all who love Jesus and want to serve him, is his plan, his purpose, his power, his presence, his nature, his love operating within us and changing the world around us right before our very eyes. The ability to provide Christ-centered health care to relieve people of sickness and infirmity, as well as the ability to address their social and spiritual needs, is powerful. This power comes From God alone. Likewise, the ability to do so with love and compassion for anyone who comes to your doors, without regard to their state or circumstance, is divine. Both reflect the character of God and are evidences of the blessed assurance of his faithfulness to make us just like him.

I want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to persevere in showing God's love by providing quality Christian health care to the poor. It is clear to me that as you do this. God’s power, presence, and nature dwells abundantly in you. May God richly reward you.

Lynne Medley-Long, M.H.A., is Executive Director ofthe East Liberty Family Health Care Center in Pittsburgh, PA. This devotional presentation was made to the CCHF "Nut: and Bolt: of Getting Started" workshop in Chicago, November 19, 2002.

Tags: H&D, Biblical Principles, Working with the Underserved, Stress & Burnout

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