ODJ: Out of My Way

November 2, 2016 

READ: Deuteronomy 22:1-8 

Go and help your neighbor (v.4).

Icy roads define winters where I live. One day last winter my commute to work was bad. As the light turned green, the car in front of me struggled in vain to slog into the intersection. No traction. Wheels spinning furiously, the vehicle finally nosed into the crossing—after the light had turned red. This meant that I didn’t move an inch . . .

Why are you driving with bad tires in this lousy weather? I thought as I waited for the next green light. And then I felt guilty. My first inclination hadn’t been to help the driver; I simply wished he were out of my way.

Jesus said the law is based on two commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). My “neighbor” in that car didn’t need my rude thoughts; he needed a push.

Much of Old Testament law seems obscure. But there were reasons—some specific to the time and culture—behind every rule. It’s easy to understand Deuteronomy 22:1-4, which instructed the Israelites to care for their neighbors’ property and animals. But why does verse 8 say, “When you build a new house, you must build a railing around the edge of its flat roof”? The rooftop is where guests stayed when they visited. As the verse explains, “That way you will not be considered guilty of murder if someone falls from the roof.”

The larger point is that God wants us to consider the wellbeing of others. We don’t live by a set of detailed rules for each specific situation. But we can live moment by moment with the guidance of the Spirit behind the law that says, “Love your neighbor.”

Rather than wishing my neighbor were out of my way, may I go out of my way to help him today—revealing the love of God.

—Tim Gustafson

365-day plan: Acts 16:16-40

Read Luke 10:29-37 and think about what it means to “go and do the same.” 
Is your first inclination to be impatient with someone? Or to lend a hand when you can? What does God’s love compel you to do?