There is not much difference between a rut and groove. We find ourselves stuck in a rut while a groove provides us a healthy rhythm of productivity. I have found that religious rules are like ruts. They are driven by rote behaviors that lack meaning leaving us in a spiritual slump. Spiritual habits on the other hand help us discipline our behavior placing us in a position to bear much fruit.
I believe there are differences between religious rules and a spiritual habits. A rule is motivated by guilt; a habit by grace. A rule becomes superstition. A habit develops character.
One day Jesus was confronted by some religious ruler followers. One of them wanted to know what he had to do to earn eternal life. In Jesus’ style, He asked a question back, “What does the scripture say?” The man had the right answer, love God and “love your neighbor.” But looking for a “loophole” he wanted Jesus to define neighbor. So Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan (read it here Luke 10:25-37).
Here are a few observations about loving our neighbor from Jesus’ story:
- Availability. In Jesus’ story the two spiritual professionals (priest & levite), both found themselves bound by religious rules so they could not help their brother. Their religious rules trumped the second part of the most important commandment. Loving our neighbor requires us to intentionally open our eyes to the needs of others.
- See a need; meet a need. Imitating Jesus will find us literally and figuratively applying first aid. Like the Samaritan in the story, we will have to wade through the messiness of humanity cleaning and dressing physical, emotional and relational wounds.
- Generosity. The Samaritan not only took the time, he used his knowledge and his skill to help the injured man. He, also, paid for the man’s care. Loving our neighbor will often call for releasing some coin to get the job done. Have faith “God always provides where He guides.”
- Compassion. Jesus said, “When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him.” Service born out of compassion is the restoration of the kingdom of God in us! This is where our habit opens our heart to the character of God. God is the god of all compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3).
- Follow Up. Jesus is not a one and done guy. The Samaritan checked back in on the man on his way back from his journey. Loving our neighbor goes beyond the world’s expectations. Checking back in says, “You are loved!”
Let me suggest a spiritual habit for all of us to build into our lives:
Love Your Neighbor – Be a blessing to others.
To help develop this habit set a goal to serve at least three people every week. Make at least one person you serve be someone outside your closest friends.
No one wants to be in a spiritual slump stuck in a rut. Building the same spiritual habits into our life that Jesus practiced in His will put us in a position to find a groove producing much fruit (see John 15:1-8).