I was sitting in a coffee shop when it hit me. This whole story of the “good” Samaritan that I have heard from the time I was a little boy felt new to me. At different times in my life I have found different parts of this story interesting. As a child it was all about the robbery and the drama. Later it became about trying to understand what it means to be a neighbor.
I wonder about the man in the ditch. Cleary he fell among thieves that robbed him of so much. I wonder if he bore any responsibility. Did he go down a road that he shouldn’t have gone down alone? Did he make choices that put him in a vulnerable position on that road that day? I guess we can’t know that answers to those questions.
Today I find myself in the ditch. I made choices. I chose this road or maybe it chose me. But here I am. I am not crying or whining about it. It many ways I am learning that it is giving me a perspective and view I could have never known from the safety of the walls and halls of the sanctuary.
Jesus told this story to answer the question posed by a religious Jew and it is inflammatory at every level. To use Jewish religious leaders and insiders as the first two examples of what a neighbor is not was offensive enough but then to use a Samaritan of all people as the positive point of the story was beyond comprehension. That is, unless you’ve been a recipient of the “good Samaritan’s” help.
This post it not meant to be hurtful or even judgmental but it is a valid testimony from the ditch. In the last few months I have experienced the ditch. Not every moment of every day feels like the ditch. There are some wonderful things and people that have filled my life. I am thankful for a lot of things but there are moments where I recognize the hurt, the bleeding and the wounds of my life.
Here’s what I have discovered. Christians that assume they are closest to the grace of God because of their faithfulness apparently have the hardest time expressing it. We love to sing about God’s unfailing love and His compassion and mercy and we believe it for ourselves and even broken sinners who wonder across our pathways from a world of sinfulness.
And then there are those from within the church who mess up and fall in the ditch. And many of us apparently find ourselves unable to know how to respond. Some ignore that person hoping the whole thing will go away. They pass by on the other side. There are some who want to know details or at least gather just enough information to talk about the wounds and the mess in the ditch. They look into the ditch to gather information and assess the situation. But Jesus didn’t find these actions very satisfactory.
He said it was a Samaritan that went into the ditch and bound up the wounded man’s body. It was the Samaritan that placed him on his own mode of transportation and took him to a place that could care for his recovery. It was the Samaritan that paid the bill. Astounding? Yes but not so surprising from my view here in the ditch.
It seems to be the “religious” that struggle the most to know what to do. I am guessing there is a mixture of disappointment, hurt and even anger that causes them to pass by on the other side or to avoid contact all together. As I listened to the words of a totally non-churched team member of mine at work asking and inviting me to spend Christmas with his family, I was overcome with emotion. I wanted to say, “but wait, I am an outcast. I am not worthy. I am an embarrassment and possibly a liability.” Maybe the man in the ditch in Jesus story felt the same way. Maybe he was in shock that a “Samaritan” would come to where he was. Jesus said, “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
And then He asked this question: ” Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
I am challenged by these words. I am broken by these words. Not judging others but judging myself and wondering how many times in my self-righteousness of the past that I passed by on the other side. Did I ignore and shun the broken especially those that once knew better things and days. I am stirred by Jesus words and I have come to realize how much I never knew about Him. How much I wish I would have known but it may be impossible to know it unless you are on the other side of grace. I will learn. I will commit myself to be a good “Samaritan.” I will learn from those who are not doing it “in Jesus name” but just because they are merciful by nature. I will learn that those of us who go to church don’t have a corner on goodness, compassion and mercy. In fact, I for one, have a long way to go. Jesus help me learn from this place where I am . . .