Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Following Jesus - The Good Samaritan

"And who is my neighbor?

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of 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, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.' "Luke 10:29 - 35

In normal, everyday times, it is not often difficult to know what to do in any given situation, even if it is difficult to actually do it. The test of a person's mettle comes in difficult, dangerous times. In challenging times, it can be as hard to know what to do as it is to do it once it becomes known. It is easy to criticize the priest and the Levite for passing by the dying man on the road to Jericho. They were both religious leaders, both should have known what to do and both should have been strong enough to do it. They weren't, though. To Jesus' listeners, the idea that a Samaritan would be willing and able to do what a Jewish religious leader was not must have been galling, in the least. In a boundless neighborhood, though, religious leaders are neighbors, too. Most of us have had too much experience with walking/driving/moving past needy neighbors, clutching filled-in agendas, with a well thought out stream of excuses whirl pooling in our minds. We don't look at these characters in Jesus' parables in order to condemn anyone else. We study them in order to better understand and judge ourselves.

The thing is, the road to tough times passes through quiet mundanity. And it is in the normalcy of life that we build up our muscles for dealing with broken people on the side of the road. The Samaritan did not suddenly become a great guy while traveling in dangerous territory and stumbling upon proof of thieving activity in a crumpled heap on the side of the road. Who I am in a crisis is a reflection of who I have chosen to be outside of a crisis. If I spend my life focused on myself, even serving others for the reward to myself, I will have a hard time putting myself aside when trouble hits. And if I'm not sure about my motives for doing good deeds, I just need to look at my heart reaction when my good deed is not noticed, especially by the recipient. What if there is no reward? Even more, what if the reaction from the recipient is negative? Am I angry? Disappointed?

If I am truly serving in God's name, then the gifts I give are given for free, just as God gives to me. The good Samaritan brought his charge to an inn after ministering to his wounds, stayed with him overnight, paid his bill and promised to come back to pay any extra expenses he might have. Then he walked away. He gave without expecting anything in return.

Yesterday I asked you to remember the original question. Today, remember Jesus' finale - "Go and do likewise."

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