This past week we celebrated VBS Sunday. The kids and adult servants led us in a service of worship and praise that reminded us to remember that God is good in every circumstance.
Since we deviated from our regular scheduled programming of Sunday mornings, we missed out on one of the most familiar stories in the New Testament: The Good Samaritan. Since the Scripture reading system we use for worship continues on with new readings for this week, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on that Good Samaritan story.
The story Jesus tells in Luke 10 is in answer to a lawyer’s question – “And who is my neighbor?”
A man falls among robbers, is beaten, and left for dead. Three people come upon the man. Two of these, a priest and a Levite, pass by on the other side and do not help the beaten man. A third person stops and cares for the beaten man, showing him mercy. The one who shows mercy is a foreigner, an outsider, a Samaritan.
Have you ever wondered why the priest and the Levite didn’t help the beaten man? I don’t think they are acting from indifference or hatred. Their actions stem from an ideology that says upholding the law is more important than helping a neighbor. You see, if the beaten man had died and the priest and Levite touched the corpse, they would have been unclean. They would have broken their religious law. The priest and Levite are doing everything they can to uphold the law, but they do so at the expense of this beaten man, even at the expense of his life.
Two thousand years after this story, we are still asking the question – “And who is my neighbor?” Oftentimes, we ask it for the same reason as the lawyer in the story. We are seeking to justify ourselves. We are seeking to call our current behavior right and good and in no need of changing.
But Jesus tells us the same story. Jesus tells us exactly what He tells the lawyer: You go and likewise show mercy. You go and have compassion for those who need it. You go and be a neighbor.
Though we live in a different time and place, we can still hurt our neighbors by our inactivity, by passing by on the other side. We can still get ourselves into trouble by trying to hold to an ideology rather than showing mercy.
Your neighbor is anyone in need of mercy, regardless of race, ethnicity, legality, language, clothing, or religious belief. I hope we can prove to be neighbors like the Good Samaritan.