2024 Senior Challenge: Bother to Love

Each year, the senior class selects a representative to deliver the Senior Challenge. This speech provides seniors with final words of encouragement and points them to Christ. This is an abridged version of Valedictorian Hope Tebben’s speech, where she challenged her classmates, as well as everyone in attendance, with a powerful reminder to “bother to love.”

2024 Senior Challenge

by Hope Tebben

This fall, I heard a quote from a man named Reverend James Keenan that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. He said that, for Jesus, “Sin is not where people are weak but trying, but where people are strong and not bothering. For Jesus, sin is a failure to bother to love.” One thing I’ve learned from 13 years of chapel is that quotes are pretty great for getting a point across, but stories are a lot better. So, I would like to share a story from Luke 10.

Luke 10

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

A New View

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard that story many times before. But every time I study the Bible, I learn something new. This time, I found a cross-reference in Leviticus that changed my perception of the priest and the Levite in this story.

You see, when I was younger, I thought that the priest and the Levite were jerks. But there’s more to it than that. Levitical law said that priests were not to make themselves unclean for anyone except for their closest family members, so that meant they were required by law to stay away from dead bodies, and the guy on the side of the road to Jericho certainly looked dead.

The Law Followers

So what did they do? They followed the law, played it safe, and passed by on the other side of the road. These guys were the religiously strong that Reverend Keenan referred to. They knew what the law required of them. And so they decided it wasn’t worth it to get closer to the man because if he was dead, they wouldn’t have been able to perform their important temple duties. But this preoccupation with their own importance caused them to miss something even more important: the man on the side of the road wasn’t even dead yet! If they had bothered to get closer, they would have realized that the man wouldn’t have made them unclean. They could have saved his life. But they didn’t bother to care about the man on the side of the road. And for Jesus, their failure to bother to love was a much greater sin than becoming ceremonially unclean.

The Samaritan

On the other hand, the Samaritan represents the “weak” that Reverend Keenan referred to. He was not set apart as holy by God. In fact, for the Jews, Samaritans were even worse than Gentiles because they were halfbreeds, a mix of Jewish and Gentile blood so detestable that the Jews would take a two-day-long detour just to avoid their cities. Jesus’ audience never would have thought that a Samaritan could be capable of anything good. Yet this man bothered to love. And even though he didn’t follow the law and he wasn’t purely Jewish, this man, not the holy men, was the one who Jesus said upheld the most important parts of the Law. The religiously weak Samaritan halfbreed who tried to help was more righteous in the eyes of the Lord than the religiously strong who did not bother to love.


I would like to propose that we as LCS graduates may default to being more like the religiously strong who don’t bother in this story. We have been surrounded by the Word of the Lord from 8am to 3pm every weekday for years, so we’ve been taught what the Bible says about right and wrong. But when we leave this place and enter our own personal mission fields, we are going to be surrounded by messy situations, and most of the time there’s not going to be one clear right-or-wrong answer. It will be really tempting to seek an easy way out. My challenge to you is to bother to love in those situations. No matter what your plans are for next year, you will be met with people that have beliefs and lifestyles you have never had to face before. Instead of avoiding them or fitting them into a stereotype, bother to listen to them, bother to learn more about them, and bother to ask God to help you show love to them. In these next years, you will also be met with situations that seem like they’re too far gone to save. When you see these issues, don’t write them off. Go get close enough to see if there’s still some life left in them. Maybe everyone thinks that a college-age kid can’t do anything to help, but the Jews didn’t think a Samaritan could do anything noteworthy either. Remember that trying and failing is so much more valuable to Jesus than passing by on the other side.

However, this way of life is costly. The Samaritan man didn’t look at the half-dead guy, pray over him from a distance, and continue on his way. That wouldn’t have been the wrong thing to do in the situation, it just wasn’t quite the right thing. Instead, the Samaritan got close, cleaned the man’s wounds, took care of him for an entire day, and spent two days’ wages on this Jewish stranger – who most likely despised Samaritans.

As kids who have grown up in a Christian community, I think we know how to care just enough in a situation to not sin, but that’s still not enough to be truly loving. No, true love bothers to care every hour of every day for an entire lifetime. True love bothers to break bread with the people that kinda creep us out. True love bothers to put aside worldly concerns to care about eternal matters. True love gives up its life for the redemption of others. It’s endless and extravagant and it’s also extremely exhausting.

God’s Law is Love

So I want to leave you with some encouragement from Jesus’ sermon on the mount. He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Class of 2024, bothering to love is difficult. More than that, it’s impossible without help from God. But throughout our years at Lansing Christian, we’ve learned that our Heavenly Father is good and generous. He promises to help you, so you have no excuse for giving up. The one who follows God’s law is the one who bothers to love. So go and do likewise.