A couple of weeks ago, we were challenged by our pastor Anthony Trask to read The Parable of the Good Samaritan in light of the staggering needs of real hurting people, both in our immediate context and around the world. It was one of the better sermons I have heard on this passage—making a familiar story into a hard-hitting challenge (and rebuke) for the American Christian.
The appeal was based on the inherent value in all humanity. All people are bearers of the image of God, and are of great worth to Him. Knowing that God cherishes every human soul, we cannot pick and choose who we will love. There is no valid criteria that allows us to “pass by,” —certainly not our own comfort or prejudices. If we are really seeking God’s heart, we will be motivated to get into the muck of hurting humanity and touch lives for God’s sake.
For me, the clincher of the sermon was an illustration of what Jesus was really saying when he told the Jewish man to “go and do the same” as a despised Samaritan. As a conservative, Evangelical Christian, that would be like Jesus telling me to go do the same as a liberal, hyper-environmentalist, post modern humanist who was feeding the hungry, reaching out to troubled teens, improving neighborhoods, or giving generously to meet needs around the world. A person whose world view does not include God might have a thing or two to teach me about investing where God sees value. Ouch!
This, of course, includes spiritual and emotional needs.
As I was developing this post, I got into a conversation with my husband about some of the themes in Isaiah. He brought up the fact that in this book God repeatedly calls on people to share in the burdens of His heart and mourn the grievous circumstances of the day. Most simply did not care and went on building homes, growing crops, and having parties. They did not want to allow themselves to feel the pain—so they distanced themselves from it, and consequently, from the heart of God. How tragic and how easy.
Isaiah 58:6-7 (NASB)
6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?
7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
I have been guilty at times of holding even my friends and close family at arms length because I did not want to enter into their pain. It was too uncomfortable and it would upset the nice world I was trying to make for myself. I offered words of sympathy, but did not walk through the storm with them. Looking back, I think it was the same as saying, “God, don’t use me to bring healing and comfort in this situation. I’m too focused on my things and I don’t want to feel the pain.”
It seems this is a tendency of fallen humanity that God has been dealing with for much of human history. His pleas to see and care are throughout the OT, and Jesus deals with the issue head on in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
God has taken a story that I have read many times before and spoken to me anew. My friend, poet, and fellow blogger, Justin Rigamonti, poses the question,
How is it that cliches can sometimes rear their banal little heads and be suddenly transformed, transfigured, glowing with the radiance of a universal Truth?
Well, I guess there’s a reason people quote God a lot. 🙂