“Smile and wave boys, just smile and wave”
Luke 10: 25-37
For some reason on Wednesday morning I woke up thinking how odd and different it is in today’s society that we still call washing machines, washing machines (or at least I still do). Sought of like if we had stuck with calling aeroplanes “flying machines” like the wright brothers back in 1903. Or instead of being the world champion boxer, maybe the world champion puncher.
Some times it’s good to just strip things back to core truths just as Jesus does in his dialogue with the lawyer in the story of the Good Samaritan. The lawyer who is well versed in the law of God yet he feels the need to justify himself as in his heart of hearts he seems to realise the impossibility of fulfilling the commandments that he has just cited, of: “Loving 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 neighbour as yourself”. So he seeks to limit God’s uncompromising demands diverting the discussion by asking “who is my neighbour”. A question designed to lead to argument about who is and who isn’t and criteria to be established and guidelines written. A ploy like we hear so often today to take the focus away from what we should do, to why we won’t do it.
Jesus will have no part of it and uses the Good Samaritan story to turn the question around and makes no attempt to decide whether the victim was properly a geographical neighbour. Rather he asks the lawyer which of the three men was neighbour to the beaten and robbed traveller to expose what the true meaning of love thy neighbour is-that the issue at hand is neighbourly love rather than the identification of who are the neighbours.
Neighbourly love that for us is basically actions and not necessarily based on our feelings. Yes the Good Samaritan is said to have felt compassion for the wounded traveller and acted with kindness and mercy. The kindness and mercy that for all we know the two that passed may have felt but did not act on-be it that they were late and were rushing to get to the synagogue where they were expected to play a part of, or that, and understandably they looked the other way in fear wondering if the robbers were still around in this notably dangerous road well known for travellers being ambushed. And seen through those eyes it’s hard to throw stones at the two that passed by when we think of the times we have all felt the same fear in our own cars when passing a hitch hiker as night is about to fall upon them. Never mind that if we link it up even closer to the Good Samaritan story, that the hurt man is a Jew, this would be like now in our time, an Israelite putting it all on the line for an Arab, or vice versa, on a dangerous section of the border between their two countries.
As always, upon a first reading it’s easy to have a crack at the Pharisees and the like in Jesus parables and stories, until we put his words into our own lives and see our own greed, selfishness and lack of courage. Never mind that Jesus has told us to act in love like the good Samaritan to our enemies and to those we find hard too like.
So what price do place on our Christian integrity? Is it fear of persecution and retribution or unfortunately, even much, much less.
Walking home with a friend of mine at about 1 am in a large regional town after a birthday party I noticed a young man trying to push his broken down car from the middle of an intersection and after my urging my friend helped me start to push the car out the way. And push and make progress we did, until I heard the guy we were helping, for some reason start abusing us. So that was it, stuff you I thought, stopped pushing, grabbed my friend and walked around to the front of his car and pushed it back to where we’d started from.
Fortunately this was before my saintly ways of today (joking).
Would I do that again? I would certainly hope not but the point is that if we act on how we see fairness or what someone’s “just deserts” are instead of how Christ sees things, even if trying to do the right thing our “stuff” ultimately gets in the way.
So which of the characters are you in the story. The one’s that walked the other way or the Good Samaritan that really did put it all on the line. That you are neither may surprise. Yes we are all probably a bit of both at times-but the one we were and are is the wounded traveller.
There we lie, ambushed by our own and others sin bleeding in the gutter unable to help ourselves. Nowhere to go and on the verb of our death Christ came and lifted us up. Carries us before His Father and asks that we be restored at the price of his own life.
The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of Christ. Christ who didn’t act according to his own consequences but according to ours-that only in his actions can we be saved.
A man asked Jesus a question regarding his understanding of the ways of God and of salvation and was told of the ways of Christ. The ways of Christ that once understood allowed Jesus to say “you go and do likewise”.
The question of God, ourselves and others, that should in our confusion we too are led to ask of, he answers with a clarity that cannot be misunderstood or manipulated:
Romans Chapter 10, beginning verse 9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says ‘Éveryone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew or Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’”.
Though undeserved, the Lord has come to us and provided for us physically and spiritually. Come and lifted us up in body and soul that we have the faith to call on his name and be saved.
Pray that we to have heard his call to “go and do likewise”. To see our neighbours without distinction, and “to love them as he has loved us”, that they too will call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. Amen.