Luke chapter 10: 25-37
The story of the good Samaritan has an interesting set-up. A lawyer is testing Jesus, and asks what to do to inherit eternal life. A very good question!
Jesus responds with questions of his own. 1. What is written in the law? and 2. What is your take on it?
The man’s answer was, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’, and ‘your neighbor as yourself’.”
Jesus told him he had the right answer, and if he did this, he would live. (Remember, this is about eternal life!)
He was really wanting to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?’
Jesus’ answer to him was the story of the Good Samaritan.
This story is an example of who your neighbor is, and how to love them.
This story is being told to a Jewish man of status. Jewish people despised the people of Samaria, the Samaritans, because they were of mixed decent (Jewish half breeds), and the Jews felt superior to them, like they would become defiled if they were around them. Typically, they didn’t even speak to them. Basic racism.
Essentially, this story (as told by Jesus, Himself) is of a man who was coming from Jerusalem (so probably a Jew), and while traveling, found himself where thieves were. They stripped him naked, stole everything he had, and wounded him severely enough that he was left half dead and lying in the dirt.
The Lord said it was by chance that a priest (spiritual leader) came down the same road, and when he saw him, he crossed to the other side and passed him by. (Now, in fairness to the priest of that time, it was forbidden for him to defile his priestly garments.)
Then, just like the priest, a Levite (spiritual leader) came to the same place and saw him. Then he crossed the road and went on by, too!
Then, a Samaritan, as he was traveling, came to the spot where this victim was. And, when he saw him, he had compassion on him.
He went over to him, gave him first aid, pouring oil and wine on the wounds (oil for annointing and wine for the Holy Spirit) and bandaged them up. Then he lifted his dead weight up on his own animal, which meant he was walking from that point on. He brought him to an inn and stayed with him to take care of him.
He had to leave the next day, so when he left he took out some money and gave it to the inn-keeper with instructions to take care of him. He also told the inn-keeper that however much more it cost him, he could go ahead and spend it and bill him for it. When he came back, he would pay up the bill for him.
Then, Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three men he thought was a good neighbor to the man who was ambushed by the thieves.
The answer the lawyer gave him was this, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Jesus’ instructions to him were to “go and do likewise”. In other words, live that way yourself.
Okay, this sounds so simple doesn’t it? It would be easy for us to judge the other two men who just left him there to suffer and die. But it really is a clear picture of how easy it is for any one of us to be in too much of a hurry, too busy, too important, too afraid, or too afraid of dirtying our hands/selves/clothes, not to mention thinking it isn’t our problem or responsibility.
Life is just that way. Sometimes we are overburdened and it really isn’t a choice. But sometimes we keep ourselves so busy and committed that we just don’t have time. Remember Martha? Jesus told her only one thing was needed and she was fixing a holiday meal! He prefered her time and company to the big meal.
Sometimes, we just can’t be bothered with what isn’t our own priority or with someone we don’t know or already care about. Sometimes, we are prejudiced and would not take time or care for someone who is different than us, seems less than us, or who makes us uncomfortable. Let’s be honest. A situation like this, where you come across a naked, smelly, dirty, bloodied up man lying there is not a situation we naturally just rush over and throw ourselves into. Especially if we have prejudice about that person. So let’s not judge these men.
This story is told in direct response to questions asking what to do to inherit eternal life, and who is my neighbor, anyway? Think about that. It is profound.
Stepping outside your comfort zone, giving of yourself to someone who might even be an enemy to you, or who might never give you the time of day, someone who must be filthy, stinking and possibly contaminated, or someone who can’t even get up without help is uncomfortable and unnatural. And then, to reach in and go the extra miles it takes to bring them to safety, meet their needs and give them a chance to heal and to live is costly of precious time and resources. And all for someone who would quite probably think you were lower than the dirt they’re lying in, and who wouldn’t give you the time of day!
I think the definition of who the neighbor was is this: it is the person who is in front of you and in true need, whether friend or foe. I think the way to be their neighbor is to do all you can do when the need is so great. And to not just leave without looking back, or leave them hanging when you cannot be there. Check back on them. Have others check in with them, too. Pray for the healing anointing of the Holy Spirit to come upon them.
The visual here is that loving someone can be quite messy, nasty even, and costly. But, you do what you can when you can, and you do it with kindness and compassion. This Samaritan did have limits. He had to leave before the man was healed, but he still took care of things for him. I think, if he hadn’t been up to the expense he might still have sent someone back to him, or found another way to help. I think this because this was the way his heart is revealed in this story.
Loving your neighbor is an issue of the heart, of putting others before self and making those sacrifices without thinking you are so important that you have to mention it or resent it.
In other scriptures, the Lord talks about loving your brother being easy, and that even the world does this. That it brings a greater reward to love your enemies, do good, lend and don’t look for anything back.
What I see happening in the church is that we are not always even open to loving our brother. This is not only because we can be selfish and immature people, but because of so many offenses in our spiritual family. It is hard to love a brother who offends you and doesn’t even care to look back or be sorry. It is also difficult to stay close to someone who avoids you and won’t even tell you they are offended with you or why. Division comes quickly when things are left to grow without dealing with them.
Sometimes, these offenses are simply because people are without a clue.
For example, a person in the church may be neglected or wounded by a spiritual leader, but the leader is clueless to the fact that they have left a wound in this person, and so no care is given to the person or the situation. As I have said in other posts, we are all created differently. We look different, think differently and feel differently. So, what can wound one person deeply, wouldn’t even be a blip on the heart or mind of someone else. Also, some people are so single-focused or busy that they just don’t see what is right in front of them, unless it is their focus. So, needs go unmet and hurt can foster anger, which can foster bitterness. And all the while, the leader or offender may just simply be oblivious.This is where forgiveness come in on the part of the offended. If they don’t, division comes, and usually with it comes talking about it to others, who then judge by what they have heard, and talk to others, etc.
Think of how the victim in this story must have felt if he actually saw the priest and spiritual leader arcing around him to avoid all contact and keep on truckin’! How would this have affected his view and feelings of his spiritual leaders? How would this have affected his view of the people they tell him to stay away from, and why should he listen to them now?
I have a young friend who is going through a difficult and even sticky situation right now with her spiritual leaders and friends. She is so seriously ill, and in so much pain, and quite honestly her illness is something that very few can relate to or understand. It is real, and has been diagnosed, and with little hope from the medical community. She is judged, sometimes quite harshly by others, and even her own friends.
It is hard to understand how a person can be so vibrant, energetic, happy and active for an evening, and then be totally crippled with pain all night and so exhausted and hurting for days or even weeks afterward. When people do get the opportunity to see her, she looks adorable, lovely even, and vibrant. She is a person who can light up the place she is in, she is intelligent and laughs easily at someone’s humor. So, it is hard for others to understand how the next day she may not be able to get out of bed, clean her house or cook a decent meal. I am sure they want to say, just get up and get going! Just do one thing, then rest, and do one more! All the advice we have sounds so reasonable to us because we are not living in her body, dealing with her pain, exhaustion, discouragement and heavy-heartedness. As believers, we might try to fix her with scriptures and tell her to trust God and then we just move on. Some would even just speak from the other side of the street (neighborhood, church) and keep moving. Why should they slow down to help someone so young and capable if she isn’t even trying?
Anyway, there are people in her life who are physically so near to her, but don’t stop by, visit, bring food, or see what help she needs at all. And worse than that, don’t even offer to come and pray with her. Perhaps they need to find a way to pencil, or even (gasp!) pen her in to their busy schedules. Perhaps they need to not be her judge.
I see her as I see the victim in this story, lying in the dirt, stripped, bruised, beaten up and bloody. The question is, are the spiritual leaders, people in her church and friends going to take the time to nurture and care for her? Or, are we going to leave it to the stranger passing by who has compassion? This would mean it might be someone from another land, from “the world”, rather than the kingdom.
And what of her husband who has his plate full and overloaded with responsiblity, and comes home to stuff she would normally have done, but doesn’t? Doesn’t this show him victimized by this, too? How shall he respond to the spiritual leaders, people and friends in their young lives? How will he view God, His people and His house? Should the men not come along side and give him their time and care, too?
What of her mother, who loves her daughter and loves the church, cares for all the people involved? How is she to feel about this? And, is she being cared for, herself as a single woman living alone?
There is a blessing that comes with serving God’s own people. In the Old Testament, it is called the prophet’s blessing. It rested on the home of the ones who took them in and provided for them.
This young lady is a born leader. It is her design by God. She is being humbled and refined, with character, integrity, compassion and mercy being worked in her. But, she is still a leader of the people of God, whether it looks like it at the moment or not.
Are the people in her life really willing to let someone from the world, the “stranger” take the blessing from them? The blessing of the Lord, and the miracles and provision that come with that, will fall on whomever cares enough to be inconvenienced, as long as it takes, with His dear one. Make no mistake about it.
As a whole body, it is easier. When each one of us does what we can and gives what we have at the time, the needs of God’s people are met more often. But, first, we have to see the need. Sometimes, the fallen just aren’t up to voicing it! “The Lord lifts the fallen, and those bent beneath their load.” And He uses His body, His arms, hands and feet for that. We need to be more observant, looking out for each other.
Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does!
1 Corinthians 14:1