I’ve heard the story of “The Good Samaritan” countless times in my fifty years. You know the one, the guy is traveling down a road when he is attacked by robbers and left for dead. He’s lying there mangled in the dirt, gasping for breath, hoping against all hope that someone will stop and help him.
One of our pastors this morning set this story in the context of current events. He recalled with us the tragedies of the last week, month, year, years, and asked us the question, “What does it mean for us? for the church?”
Let me just go on record here and say that in the past weeks and months I have NOT immediately gone to that question as I’ve witnessed all kinds of horrendous acts. I have been more often found standing in front of the television, eyes wide, saying, “What the…”
It doesn’t take me long to launch into the words I used to hear my grandparents say, “What’s the world coming to?” From there it’s just a short trip to quoting scripture about the end times and “wars and rumors of wars”. Before you know it, I’m in a frantic outrage trying to find someone to blame. It must be the Republicans. No, it’s the Democrats. Wait, I think it’s corporate America. No, no, it’s the extremists. I’m not really looking for what it means for me, or, to be honest, for ways that I could possibly help.
This morning, our pastor in his re-telling of “The Good Samaritan” pointed out that each of us, like the man in the story, is essentially half-dead, lying in the dirt, gasping for breath. He said, “Jesus is the good Samaritan.” Gasp! How did I get fifty years into my life and not realize that the point of the story is not that I would see myself as the good Samaritan and look for ways that I can be better than the priests and the Levites and actually help out the poor hurting soul? How have I not seen that I am the poor hurting soul!?!?!?
Jesus was telling this story to a respected expert in the law. The expert had asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He of course knew what was written, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” He just needed a little clarification. “Uh, Jesus, who, uh, exactly, would you say qualifies as ‘my neighbor’?”
Can’t you just see Jesus inhaling slowly, thinking to Himself, “This one is gonna take a story.” He doesn’t just say, “Every living human, you moron!” like I might. Nope. He takes this expert in the law, pulls him onto his lap and has a little story time.
The Teacher tells the expert that, in the story, the Samaritan didn’t first check to see what neighborhood the hurting man was from. He didn’t ask him his last name. He didn’t try to find out if he was an illegal immigrant. He didn’t check to see if he had a conceal and carry permit. He didn’t examine the color of his skin. He didn’t determine if they spoke the same language. He didn’t check his ID. No.
He saw a dude in the dirt that needed help. He used his own wine and oil to cleanse the man’s wounds before he bandaged them. He put the guy on his own donkey and then walked with him to a place of shelter. He paid for the stranger’s care. Period.
The Teacher looks the expert in the eyes and says, “Who was a neighbor to this man?” The expert says, “The one who showed mercy.” And the punch line? “Go and do likewise.”
Is it dangerous to meet the need of someone we do not know? Yes. Is it scary to reach out when we see someone hurting? It can be. Is it uncomfortable to stand up for the oppressed, the wounded, the outcast? Sometimes.
Our pastor’s challenge to us this morning was that we ask God to show us the people in our regular flow of life who need us to see them, share with them what we have, walk beside them, and befriend them. His closing words? “Take the risk to love for the sake of the Gospel.”
Go and do likewise.
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid.
For I, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1: 9