READ: LUKE 10: 29-37
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 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[e] 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.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
It would be easy to read this as a story that tells us to be nice to our neighbour. That would not be a wrong… BUT it would be missing a lot too. As I have read this parable afresh, during this Lenten journey through Luke, I have been struck by the difference between the RIGHT thing and the GOD thing.
As the Priest and Levite rush by, don’t let them out of your soul’s sight too quickly. Hold them in view long enough to see that they were maybe doing the right thing. If this beaten up guy is dead, or near to it, then getting too close will break the purity laws of the religiously committed. Don’t be too hard on these guys. They do the RIGHT thing!
Jesus then adds his semtex moment to the story. He introduces a Samaritan. The Jewish religious leader Jesus was answering, in the telling of the parable, would be turned almost nauseous with sectarian hatred. Then… Jesus goes even further… the Samaritan stops with the beaten up man, binds his wounds and generously pays for his recovery. This is outrageous. The Samaritan’s kind act would not have been the RIGHT thing to do in his community. He had reached across his religious, race and political lines in an act of grace. Some might have called it betrayal.
What I have been surmising this week, as I have read and reread this familiar parable, is that sometimes the RIGHT THING and the GOD thing are different. We need to get out from the cultural, political, religious RIGHT thing, to what Jesus was inspiring us to do. Time and time again Jesus dismissed doing the RIGHT thing to do the GOD thing. Religious purity, no matter how important that might be, was secondary to caring for a beaten up man. That was an act of grace modelling Christ’s grace towards broken humanity. Jesus died for people not principles.
PONDER: Are there principles we hold above people. Are there areas in our lives we put the right thing above the GOD thing?