When the Jewish lawyer, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus taught him the parable of the Good Samaritan. Without rehearsing the parable’s familiar details, we surely need to pay attention to the Lord’s point about showing love toward those in need—and doing that without prejudice and discrimination.
Consider the priest and the Levite; though professional “religious” people, they failed miserably in putting their faith into practice. The half-dead man in the ditch wasn’t a close friend or relative, so they thought they owed him nothing.
As we search our own hearts and souls, have not we also been guilty of not putting our faith into practice? Have we always shown compassion as we should? Have we been prejudiced or condescending toward people of another race or color? Doubtless we will all confess our sins in this regard.
Yes, the need for a wholehearted love toward God and neighbor convicts every person on Earth, and should cause each and every one to despair of any attempt to save self by one’s own good works. Yet so many try the impossible, seeking to earn or merit eternal life by law-works—and sad to say, they are encouraged in that direction not only by non-Christian religions, but also by false-teachers within Christian churches. In fact, every religion other than true Christianity ultimately directs sinners to look for and find peace, comfort, and security with God through one’s own doings or strivings.
Martin Luther—in his early years as a child and a monk in the Roman Catholic Church—found no peace of conscience with God through his “good deeds.” But God allowed His servant to uncover the truth of the gospel that we poor sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, without the works of the law.
So let us ever rejoice and give thanks for our precious Lutheran heritage!
Salvation unto us has come
By God’s free grace and favor;
Good works cannot avert our doom,
They help and save us never.
Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,
Who did for all the world atone;
He is our one Redeemer.
Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone
And rests in Him unceasing;
And by its fruits true faith is known,
With love and hope increasing.
Yet faith alone doth justify,
Works serve thy neighbor and supply
The proof that faith is living.
(The Lutheran Hymnal, 377:1, 9)