I am writing out my talks for my time in Pakistan. I am going for almost a month. And so I am going through some old blogs and doing some revising, that is the first one below this one (peace as reality) and then here’s this controversial one about the Samaritan, but a bit of a different take on it…see what you think!
READ the GOOD SAMARITAN (Luke 10:25-37)
There was this well-known road in ancient Palestine where robbers would hide and find ways to beat and steal things from the innocent pedestrians that made their way from Jerusalem to Jericho. This road was called the “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” the same one King David writes about in Psalm 23.
One day a Samaritan comes along.
We tend to race past this point of the story. We’ve heard it so many times before. Like an old story our grandfather might have told us about the war he was in long ago. Or the story of Heer Ranjha. In the Jewish culture, a Samaritan was a racial enemy.
Someone who didn’t fit in and was disliked. We can all probably think of someone we just can’t get along with, that is the good guy in this story. Can you think of anyone like that?
He’s the good guy. A
The act of the cross is the ultimate reaction of compassion. the hebrew definition of the word compassion is to see something that needs to be done and to do it. To see someone who is in deep need and to go out of your way and meet that need even if it costs you everything. The teacher of the law in the story of the Good Samaritan wants to know who his neighbour is, the word he uses here is the same word we use for an acquaintance, it is someone we do not know well, we may know of them and their name, but do not spend much time with them. The religious leader is trying to get out of showing love to everyone. He is trying to get Jesus to tell him what he wants to hear. The religious teachers wants to believe that he can choose who he wants to love and show compassion to. And Jesus says it isn’t about who you get to choose to love, he challenges the teacher by telling him that he should be a neighbour to everyone. Even to those he may hate. Even to those who may have hurt him.
You may be here today and can remember someone who may have hurt you. I don’t want to minimize your pain. I don’t want to cheapen your anger for the hurt that you have experienced. It is real. But, I have a question for you, do you want to live the rest of your life feeling that way? Harboring bitterness and malice in your heart. I don’t know what it means for you to fully forgive someone who has hurt you, whether they are related to you or across a country border. I do know this, there is a way of life that is better than living in pain and confusion and anger. It is a reality of peace that Jesus offers. It is something that is bigger than pain and loss. And Jesus wants to bring healing to that relationship. Jesus believes that healing can begin when we choose to show compassion even when we may not feel like it. So who is your Samaritan? Is it a friend? A family member? A muslim? someone from India? The people hearing this story would have heard this story before, Jesus was telling them a well-known story that some might have even heard as a child. The original story where Jesus put the Samaritan was actually a Jew. So, Jesus was changing the story and saying that compassion is the point. Compassion is a trait for those who follow Jesus. Jesus did this. His compassion saves us. He said we could be just like him. what if our compassion can save others? Just like Jesus’ did.
At the age of 13, a young Jewish child went from being a boy to a man and one of the many responsibilities of a man in that culture was to pay a temple tax. The temple tax was specifically reserved to purchase animals for the typical once-a-year sacrifice that the priest would enact for everyone on their behalf. His action would atone for the sins of others. Jesus is playing on the issue of atonement. Of being absolved from our sins. Here in the story though, it isn’t the priest who absolves the victim, it is the Samaritan. The outsider. And maybe a muslim or someone from India. He atones for the victims’ sin.
It’s as if Jesus is saying, bigger than right or wrong, than sin or no sin, the one thing that can absolve the sins of another is hidden in the act of compassion. And anyone can join in on this movement of compassion. There is hope that we all can be a people dedicated to not merely seeing the need of someone else and walking by, but that we all, as the human race can fight indifference and wrong theology with compassion and grace. This is the invitation.
In fact, according to Jesus, the Samaritan is who we need to learn from. We need to learn from him. The Samaritan comes along after the religious people. The guys who should have known the right thing to do yet didn’t do it. In the Jewish Torah, all life is sacred. Period. According to the Jewish Law, they were responsible to protect any human life, even enemies. The first two guys would have known this. But they continue to walk on. Us, do we follow after them as well? One of the many points of this story is that God can choose to use anyone to get his message across.
So maybe the first step for a lot of you might be to seek this person out and find peace with them. Or maybe for others it is to help someone you know who is in need. Maybe it is loving the unlovable. Maybe it is finding someone you have never known before and starting a friendship. Maybe it is treating a local homeless guy like he is rich. Forgiveness isn’t an easy thing, it takes a lot out of us. It challenges us to look and see that the world is bigger than our pain and our experiences. But Jesus’ idea of forgiveness is that it can be one step closer to healing. To restoring peace. To finding hope. To experiencing love. But it starts with us. One of the many words for forgiveness in the Hebrew, literally means to ‘stand up’. It is this idea that without forgiving others we are not getting anywhere. There is no progress. No forward motion. And when we forgive it is then we can stand up proudly and courageously because our act of forgiveness has somehow created peace in the world, if not just our lives alone. Forgiveness can change lives. Restore hope and repair souls. What will it take for you to ‘stand up’?