Being the Good Samaritan to those We have Hurt

Sermon Notes  2008:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan  (Luke 10:25-37 ), 

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is obvious that a literal reading of the story would say, “if you come upon a suffering human, take care of them.”  It doesn’t matter how they got into their condition – the story doesn’t moralize about whether or not the man should have been going down to Jericho, on that particular road or at that particular time, nor does it question the man’s wisdom or intentions.  The man was a victim, and only the Samaritan showed any sign of humanness or compassion – the very religious types in the parable refuse to show the slightest compassion or empathy for the victim.

And for us “religious types” today we can readily identify with the Samaritan, the hero of the story, but also with the victim  whom we have empathy for if not a belief that we have been victimized a few times ourselves and watched others pass us by.

One of the great things about the parables of Jesus is that they allow us to experience the story from many different angles.  We can think about the Gospel lesson from a variety of perspectives which deepens the parable and opens our hearts and minds to work of the Holy Spirit.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we can imagine or perhaps even remember times when we were victimized by someone – if not physically, emotionally or verbally or spiritually – and we can recall what it is like to be ignored or judged or blamed by others.   Our own suffering makes it possible for us to empathize with the suffering of others and to want to reach out to such victims.   We might remember the pain of suffering alone or the embarrassment of having become a victim and feeling no one understands.  

And if we are introverted or analytical type people who normally hide our emotions, we may have been weeping inconsolably within our hearts, and wondering why others walk by seeing we have been wounded but don’t stop to ask us about our pain.

But the parable also invites us to take a look at one other role we can play in the parable.  We can be the ones who inflict pain on others – we can rob them of their innocence, their hope, their trust, their faith, their self esteem, their sanity, their sanctity, their vitality, and/or their health.   We don’t have to be robbers or thieves in the legal sense.  We can be abusive, overbearing, unjust, selfish, self centered, controlling, adulterers, disrespectful, liars, quarrelsome, enraged, outrageous, withdrawn, hateful, cold hearted, indifferent, mean, drunkards, addicts, lacking self control, profligates, excessive, promiscuous, self indulgent.  In all and in any of those things, we can leave a multitude of victims in our wake, lying on the side of the road, half dead or wishing they were dead.

And if we are to follow Christ (remember Matthew 28:20 – teaching them to observe all I have commanded you) we have to remember the good Samaritan parable and say, it is not only the victims of others that we can tend to or minister to or care for – we can take a walk down the path of our lives and find the victims of our own behaviors and tend to them.  Yes, it means acknowledging the wrongs we have done and recognizing others as victims of our own abuses.

Like the Levite and the priest in the parable, we can rush by on the other side of the road, hurrying to what is important to us, or we can be the good Samaritan and stop and take care of those we have hurt and help them get to a place where others can care for them.  And this means it may cost us something more than a little time – they may have wounds that we have to pay to have mended.  There is a price to be paid to be a good Samaritan, to do the work Christ has commanded us to do.

And it also means following up and coming back to where we left the victims of our excesses and abuse and seeing what more we can do to restore them to health.   This is what it means to do all that Christ commanded us.

Too often we reduce obeying Christ to obeying some strict moral prohibitions.  But more than (rather than?) a law giver, Christ was a teacher of love.  He used parables to present his commandment, not legal and imperial decrees.  He was critical of reducing religion to ritual purity, and instead offered us wisdom as the way to learning to be merciful and to loving one another.