Last night I was having my weekly class on the Gospels. My professor taught about the Good Samaritan and told a story of a time he was hanging out with Heidi Baker in Mozambique.
Heidi dropped him off at a particular spot to pray and then went to do some errands. While he was there praying, a boy came up and tried to sell him a coconut. He was somewhat annoyed and, after many denials, finally got the boy to leave him alone. Later, Heidi returned, and he climbed into the back of her Land Rover.
While he was getting buckled in, the same boy materialized again and asked Heidi if she wanted to buy a coconut. “Of course!” she exclaimed. She purchased the coconut and then proceeded to love on the boy and share the gospel with him.
My professor recalls, “In the back I was just dying. I was so convicted!” After the boy left, Heidi said, “I discovered if you buy a coconut, they’ll talk to you forever!” My professor said he turned himself inside out confessing his sin to her.
As I listened to this story on “Thanksgiving Eve,” I thought about what it truly means to be thankful. Jesus told us the highest commandment is to love God with our whole being. This of course entails thankfulness. However, it’s important to remember the next command, which is to love our neighbor as ourselves.
If you link the two, the clearest way to express our love and thankfulness to God is by loving our neighbors.
The natural question, of course, is who is my neighbor? That’s the question people asked Jesus in Luke 10. His response was to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. We all know the story. What’s interesting is that the man who was robbed had his clothes taken away. In that culture, you could identify who a person was based on what they wore. Jews looked like Jews, Romans looked like Romans, etc. It was impossible to tell what group this person belonged to. Jesus’ point was that our obligation to love people is not contingent upon whether or not they belong to our group.
The other startling feature of the story is that the person that helped was a Samaritan. For the Jews listening, Samaritans were half-breed compromisers. They were the enemy, and yet he is the one who responds in a neighborly way. Not only can we not limit our definition of “neighbor” to a particular people group, we can’t even limit it to people who are friendly towards us. Our enemies are our neighbors. This is of course is totally in line with Jesus’ other teachings.
What does any of this have to do with Thanksgiving? I think it shows that the purest expression of thanks we can give to God is simply to love the person in front of us, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done. Every person we encounter, whether kind or mean, funny or surly, represents an opportunity to display the love of God. For that reason, we can be thankful for every person who crosses our paths.
People are a blessing. God must think so, He created a whole mess of us! Molly and I are thankful for you and for the opportunity to speak into your lives. Have an awesome Thanksgiving! Eat lots of turkey and remember to love your relatives that drive you nuts!
Max and Molly