One of my favorite stories of the Bible is the one about The Good Samaritan.
In the Gospel of Luke, the parable is introduced by a question which identifies the Great Commandment:
Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, with all your mind, [Deuteronomy 6:5]; and your neighbor as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].”
He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:25–29, World English Bible
Jesus replies with a story:
Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do.”
— Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible
Most people are well aware of The Good Samaritan, but perhaps never really read the story in its entirety. After revisiting this parable once again, I am renewed with awareness and conviction in its message…
Am I truly a Good Samaritan?
How often I cross the road to avoid someone in need…
Do I heed Christ’s calling, when I encounter soul after soul, day after day, everywhere I go… giving me an opportunity to serve?
Or do I selfishly justify my own agenda? Rushed. Distracted. Irritated at those that beckon my attention. Or worse, do I deem them unworthy of my time and effort?
I always looked on the priest and the Levite with such disdain, using my punishing critical voice of “how could they?”
I see me.
“Love thy neighbor” doesn’t mean:
Help when you have time. Help when your heart is in the right place. Help when you have energy. Help when it’s convenient. Help when it’s someone you are comfortable with and love. Help only those you agree with and understand. Help only the people you deem lovable and worthy of help. Help only those who believe what you believe.
Oh, it means so much more…
Sacrificial. Selfless. Enduring. Unconditional. Generous. Forgiving.
Our neighbor = ALL PEOPLE.
We don’t know what the Priest and the Levite had in mind, when they chose to ignore this wounded man. Perhaps they didn’t want to get their Holy Hands dirty, or their sacred lives messy. It could be that they were so distracted with their own pious mission, they simply didn’t think to look up to see the man. Or even worse? They believed someone so broken and beaten down was surely not worthy of their precious time and attention. Were their deceiving beliefs keeping them from serving their Lord? Oh, the fundamental hypocrisy lays the groundwork for so many.
Whatever the reasons, no matter their intentions, two prestigious people dishonored God’s greatest purpose for our lives. God calls us all to care for his children. There are no boundaries, no rules, nor qualifiers that limit this command.
And the one man, who was hated among the Jews… did what was right. He cared for a broken and beaten human being who was in desperate need.
What I love about this story, is how Jesus chose a Samaritan to exemplify doing His good work. He identified someone on the fray- Christ honors HIS heart, HIS choice, HIS service, and condemns the others for neglecting what is most important to Him. Caring for his children. ALL of them.
Oh how this truth is powerful, and the message is clear. May we all stop our busy distracted lives to lift the wounded, tend to the weak, love the unlovable, serve those in need. No matter who they are, how ugly the situation is, or how broken and beaten down they appear.
Christians, we need to get our Holy hands dirty, and our sacred lives messy. We need to feel the burden of our Lord, when we open our view to see the broken and wounded, the weak and the lost. We need to stretch our comfortable places, and remove our fears, our judgments, our daily distractions-
And cross the road.
I expand my view to our global concerns. Who of us is not willing to open our arms to people across the world in need? From the far off places of atrocities, to our own back streets of homelessness… Are we turning our heads and looking away? Are we distracted, or fearful, or throwing judgment their way? Do we deem them unholy and refuse to get too near? Are the lost and broken unworthy of our compassion?
Christ’s heart is PASSIONATE for them.
Therefore, if our heart isn’t?
Then we have some praying to do.
Open up your hearts, your holy hands, and your sacred lives…
Christ’s calling us to cross the road.
There’s much work to do on the other side.
Are you a Good Samaritan?