By Lilly Lewin and Rob Lewin
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] 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.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” LUKE 10: 25-37 NIV
Lilly asked me to write for Godspace this week, so here goes. This week’s gospel passage from the Lectionary is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here are some take-aways that surprised me.
The religious person testing Jesus asks what he needed to do “ to inherit eternal life.” And after an accurate confession of the first two commandments, Jesus says basically “do that.” But the expert then says “Who is my neighbor” expecting something clear, doable and Jewish. So Jesus tells the story to him. Then he asks “who was this man’s neighbor?” The expert, unwilling to even say the word Samaritan, says “the one who had mercy on him.” And then Jesus does a “mic drop” that would have made his audience crazy. He simply says “go and do likewise.” What? No way. Jesus are you saying that an unclean person will “inherit eternal life?” That’s as far away from Hebrew orthodoxy as you could possible get! Or that eternal life is based on my action, not my beliefs? That’s “works!” Hey? What about the Reformation? This must be wrong! What about worship, singing, doctrine, theology, sermons and Bible studies? Jesus never retreats, never makes excuses, and never feels the need to explain. It’s as if he’s saying “Those are the words of the Son of God. Maybe you had it wrong. Deal with it.”
How do we deal with that? I wonder if we’ve built our lives on “go and do likewise” or we’ve built them on everything else?
What is your life built on?
I’m evaluating my life, even as I write, and it’s not a pretty picture. Over the last 4 decades, everyone in my life sold me something else to do in order to get eternal life . Eternal life had nothing to do with practicing hands-on mercy to suffering people. That was always a good idea, but last on the list. Was it for you?
And I wonder if 20 years of deconstruction has deconstructed me right out of “having mercy.” How ‘bout you?
On April 3rd 1968, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr gave a speech where he discussed the Good Samaritan passage. He thought that the Levite and Priest were afraid of what might happen to them if they helped the man. What if he was not really hurt? What if it was a set up? Then Dr. King changes the focus. He said what if the correct question isn’t “what might happen to me if I help?” But “What happens to HIM if I don’t help?” Dr. King thought that the lack of compassion not only leaves the suffering without help, but it also corrodes our souls if we ignore the suffering.
So for us, what do we need to do to “inherit eternal life,” or change our focus to what happens to the other instead of what happens to me?
What steps can you and I take to focus a part of our week on people suffering all around us?
Can you feel your existing schedule and family and expectations crowd it out before you even begin? Yea, me too! As I’ve worked at this, it’s not easy. The ” I’m too busy” screams in my head every day. All I can do is just keep moving forward…
Baby steps to becoming a really good Samaritan:
Journal or take a walk and tell Jesus how you really feel about this. Do you want to avoid this? Say so! What things stop you? We all have a million reasons not to take time to show compassion or help other people who are suffering. Jesus isn’t surprised by any of it. Scream it to him if you need to.
What communities are you already familiar that directly touch suffering people? Call them today. Ask how you could help. Just start somewhere.
Do you already see and help folks like Jesus said? How can you invite others to help, so their souls don’t calcify or corrode in the future? You’re a lifeline to them even if you can’t see it yet.
USE this prayer of confession and talk to Jesus about your answers to the above questions
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.
What do you notice? Take time to talk to Jesus about these things.
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