God loves to crush our stereotypes. We get far too comfortable thinking the way we always think. But there is a problem. Sometimes we’re wrong.
I love the lesson Jesus teaches in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.
You may know the story. A legal expert challenges Jesus with a question. “What do I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus basically says “You’re the legal expert, what does the law say?” “Well,” the lawyer replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
That’s a good answer. Actually, it is even the RIGHT answer. Love God, love people. So Jesus tells him, “Right. Now go do it!” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here, giving you the “BRV” – or “Bishop Robert Version.”)
Well, loving God is pretty straightforward, even for a lawyer. He knows the law, he knows the rules. And he knows God. Ahhh, but the LAST part!!! Let’s try to narrow that down a bit!
The expert in the law asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” He’s not asking because he doesn’t know. He’s not even asking to get Jesus’ insight. he’s only asking to justify himself, to make himself look all pure and pretty. (Even if only in his own eyes.)
So Jesus tells him a parable. And he turns the whole question around. A nice Jewish boy is walking down the road and gets mugged. He’s beaten, robbed and tossed aside; left to die.
Along comes a HOLY man, a priest. Priests are the servants of God, representing the people and their needs to a holy and righteous Heavenly Father. But the “holy” priest doesn’t care about the needs of this poor Jewish lad lying in the road bleeding. He saw him. But he didn’t care. In fact, he moved to the other side of the road as he walked by. Deliberately.
Then along comes another HOLY man, this one a Levite. Levites are the servants of God, serving at the temple and assisting in the offering of sacrifices to a holy and righteous Heavenly Father. But the “holy” Levite doesn’t care about the needs of Jewish guy moaning and begging for someone to help him. Jesus makes it clear in His parable that the Levite saw him, too. But he didn’t care. He just moved to the other side of the road. Deliberately.
Two people who were “supposed” to be “ministers” were phonies. Because they only saw their “ministry” through the lens of the law and the rules, they utterly failed.
Then comes the Samaritan.
Samaria was seen as a land of half-breeds. The Samaritans were hated enemies, distrusted and utterly avoided at all costs. Only evil was expected from the hand of a Samaritan. Today the lands of Samaria are in the Palestinian Authority. So the Samaritans might be called “Palestinians” if Jesus were telling this parable today, and not much has changed. Mutual hatred. Mutual distrust. Violence and and anger. That’s what you get from “those people”.
Except Jesus turned the whole prejudice issue around and made the Samaritan the hero. The HATED man acted like the HOLY men should have! He cared, and acted upon it. He refused to allow historic animosity to stop him from doing what he knew in his heart was the right thing. He had compassion.
So the Samaritan interrupts his own journey and binds up his wounds. He didn’t have a medical kit from the local auto club. The cloth he had with him would have been either his own clothing or his wares, if he were a merchant. But either way, he ripped them into strips to use as bandages. He took his own wine to serve as an antiseptic as he washed the wounds. He used his own oil to sooth the injuries as he wrapped them. Then, as you probably know, he used his own money to care for the recovery; even promising to return and cover any additional expense. He loved even his enemy, and showed his love by his good deeds.
Jesus turned every stereotype around as he told the parable. I can see everyone listening scratching their heads in disbelief as He spoke. In a different time Jesus may have used different terms. He may have spoken of Dinkas and Nuers, Hutus and Tutsis, the North and the South, Blacks and Whites, or any of a thousand other groups who live their lives in stereotypical blindness.
But hatred and ignorance is never “just about them” — it is ALWAYS about me and my response to it.
So Jesus shines the spotlight right back at the lawyer. “So, which one was the neighbor?”, He asks.
The lawyer replies and says, “The one who showed mercy.”
Jesus drives the lesson home — “You go and do likewise.”
You can’t eliminate one word out of that sentence. Each one is important.
YOU — You are the answer. You are responsible. YOU need to do something.
GO — We all go somewhere every day. Some of us wander, others are sent. When you’re sent, you have a mission. Jesus SENT the lawyer to be a living example of a neighbor.
DO – When all is said and done there is usually a lot more said than done. What matters is not only what you SAY, but what you DO. Jesus instructed the lawyer to ACT on the teaching, not just talk about it.
LIKEWISE – Our love MUST be sincere. We are to hate WHAT is evil, not WHO is evil. We are to CLING to what is good.
The bottom line is this. Our lives are an example to others. Yes, ALL OF US!
We are either an example of someone who has been changed, or someone who needs to be.
The only one who can “turn it around” is you.
Go and do likewise.