I have a friend (not the dude in the picture) who wears a tee shirt with the word Likewise written on the front. He says it’s the name of a coffee shop in Knoxville, Tennessee that does nice things for people who are down on their luck. Beyond doing nice things for folks, they take all the money they earn from selling coffee and support their ministry, Raising a Voice, which fights against human trafficking on a local and global platform. If we had a coffee shop like that in our neighborhood that’s where I would buy my coffee.
The folks at Likewise are thinking red! They took the words of Jesus seriously and created a whimsical expression of Christ like community. After all, Jesus is the one who told the story of the Good Samaritan. At the end of the story Jesus said, if you want to be a good neighbor and inherit eternal life . . . Go and do likewise.
I remember the first time I read the Good Samaritan story. I was a young Christian, still in that naive space of faith development where you take Jesus at his word rather than rationalizing your way out of doing what he said. When I read the words, Go and do likewise, I got up from the couch and went for a drive in my 1972 Ford Courier. I went to look for someone in a ditch who needed help.
I traveled seven short miles from my living room couch and found a person in need. There on the side of the road, walking aimlessly with a cane was a little old lady. I’ll never forget the soft wrinkles in her face and the gray bun of hair tightly wrapped on top of her head. She wore a faded blue dress and black leather shoes that were left untied. Her knee-high stockings were sagging around her ankles. As she climbed into my pickup truck, she peeped over her horn-rimmed glasses and introduced herself.
“My name is Mrs. Tully; I’m walking to Crestwood,” (a twenty-minute drive in my truck or a three day journey walking at Mrs. Tully’s pace.)
As we traveled down the road Mrs. Tully filled me in on her life story. When we arrived at our destination I interrupted her story and asked, “Where do you want to go in Crestwood?”
She responded, “Crestwood? I don’t want to go to Crestwood! I want to go home.”
“Where’s home?” I asked.
“I don’t know! You’re the one who picked me up!”
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I decided to drive back to the place we met and hope for the best. Sure enough, as we drove back into LaGrange she recalled where she lived and invited me in to help her with a “plumbing problem.”
The next thing I knew, we were standing side by side in the bathroom. Her tub was filled to the brim with gray water; brown suds were floating on top. Mrs. Tully had been doing her laundry. Floating beneath the brown bubbles was her dirty socks, stockings, slips and other undergarments I didn’t want to think about.
Mrs. Tully looked at the bathtub with a long sad face and then she looked at me. She didn’t say a word.
I looked at the underwear floating in the corner of the tub and then looked back at Mrs. Tully. I didn’t say a word.
She looked at me again, peeping over the top of her glasses, and then she looked back at the tub.
Silence filled the air. All I could hear in the back of my mind was, “Go and do likewise!”
After a long pause, I rolled up my sleeves and plunged my hands through the suds and unclogged the drain at the bottom of the tub. Mrs. Tully thanked me and offered me a piece of cake for my service. I took a pass on the cake. The plumbing project waned my appetite. However, I made a plan to return in a few weeks to share some cake and a few more stories.
Sometimes I wonder if we Christians make following the way Jesus more complicated than he intended for it to be. He didn’t make up a bunch of news rules. He basically had two: love God and love your neighbor. Nor did Jesus spend a lot of time debating theological and philosophical propositions; instead, he told stories about radical expressions of love like the story of the Good Samaritan and then he told us to go and do likewise.
Maybe following Jesus can be as simple as adding a new bottom line to a business enterprise; taking some of the money you make and using it to serve others in need.
Maybe it looks like drinking coffee at a place that does nice things for people and gives the money they make to help eliminate sex trafficking.
Maybe following Jesus is as simple as getting up off the couch and looking for someone who is lonely.
If you want to follow Jesus today, spend some time reflecting on the things he said and the way he lived and then go and do likewise.
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Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.