County Lines by Bob
Why do people waste time arguing about religion, about why one
belief system is better than another? What a person does is important.
What a person claims to believe isn't. The story of the good Samaritan
illustrates what I mean.
A man is beaten, robbed, and left on the side of the road. One
by one, a group of self-righteous believers walk past the injured
man without stopping to help.
Then, without hesitation, a Samaritan, viewed as lowly by those
who passed by, stops and helps the injured man. After tending to
the injured man's wounds, the Samaritan carries him to an inn and
pays for his lodging until he recovers.
After recovering, the man tries to pay the Samaritan for his acts
of kindness. The Samaritan refuses to accept payment.
Nowhere in the story are the beliefs of the Samaritan mentioned.
What the Samaritan believes is unimportant. What the Samaritan does
is all important.
The story contains another message at a deeper level. When the
Samaritan refuses payment for helping the injured man, he is emphasizing
a spiritual principle. He didn't help for a reward or recognition.
He did what he did because it was the right thing to do.
Whenever I see a list of donations followed by the names of those
who donated, I look for donations followed by anonymous. Finding
that type of gift is like finding an oasis in the middle of a desert.
Giving to be recognized is not really giving at all. As Jesus of
Nazareth aptly put it, "Those who do good deeds for all to
see, have received their only reward."
Jesus viewed prayer in the same manner. "When you pray,"
Jesus told his followers, "don't be like the Pharisees who
pray in the markets and on the street corners for all to see. Go
into a closet and pray."
Jesus knew prayer had to be one on one to be effective. Praying
in public was something the unenlightened did to gain attention.
Praying in groups shifted the focus from the all encompassing One
to those who were praying to be noticed, to those who ignored the
true purpose of prayer.
Jesus attending a party at the home of a tax collector points
out what I'm getting at in a different manner.
Before the party, Peter tries to get Jesus not to go. Peter warns
Jesus that deviants of every description will be there. Prostitutes.
Gamblers. Drunkards. Thieves. Liars. Cheats. And worst of all, a
Jesus says something like, "These are the people I came for.
A good shepherd does not abandon his flock.Ó
Peter still doesn't get it. He sees only the surface. Jesus looks
When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn't line them up and say, "Do
you believe this? Okay, you can eat. Next."
Jesus excluded no one. The beliefs of those in attendance were
immaterial. Jesus fed the multitude because they were hungry, because
feeding the hungry is the right thing to do.
I've heard preachers describe Jesus as being meek. I've read the
Gospels hundreds of times. I've never found a meek Jesus.
The Jesus who chased the money changers out of the temple wasn't
meek. The Jesus who stopped the stoning of a woman by an angry mob
wasn't meek. The Jesus who pushed back when the Pharisees pushed
him wasn't meek.
My favorite story about a confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees
is in the 17th chapter of Luke.
The Pharisees corner Jesus and grill him about the Kingdom he frequently
refers to. "Where is this Kingdom?" they ask.
Jesus replies, "Don't say 'Look here!' or 'Look there!' The
Kingdom I speak of is within you."
Realizing they are overmatched by the revolutionary power of this
solitary man, the Pharisees back off and start planning to destroy
Jesus with the aid of the Roman government.
I could go on and on telling stories from the Judaic-Christian
Bible to further express my point. I know the Bible forward and
backward. I learned to read by looking at the words in the Bible.
I read the Bible every day.
Many appear surprised when they learn I was raised strictly as
a Southern Baptist. Sunday school and church every Sunday morning.
Church every Sunday night and Wednesday night. Vacation Bible School
I was baptized, along with my cousin Stevie, in my grand-father's
church when I was nine. A symbolic gesture, dating back to before
the Judaic-Christian Bible was compiled, dating back to the religions
of ancient Egypt.
Although I didn't know it at the time, my baptism symbolized, among
other things, the first steps on the road to replacing my grandfather
after he passed to the other side. From grandson to grandfather,
the journey of a lifetime.
As an enlightened master, Jesus backed his words with actions.
He was in constant conflict with those in authority, religious and
Jesus didn't back down. He plowed straight ahead, regardless of
consequences. When it came time to put up or shut up, he put up.
As it moved westward, Christianity became diluted and polluted
until what masqueraded as Christianity was sold on street corners
by the unscrupulous with dollar signs where their hearts should
In the near future, millions of people who call themselves Christians
will march through the streets, praying and buying T-shirts and
bumper stickers, like they do every year.
I won't be participating in those marches, not because I don't
believe in the teachings of Jesus, but because I do.
Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570