Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to inherit eternal life, part 19: the Samaritan

And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.' Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' hands? " And he said, "The one who showed mercy toward him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do the same." (Luke 10:31-37 NASB)

The priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all saw the wounded man but only the Samaritan saw with his heart. He was moved by compassion for the man's needs and did all he could do for him. The actions of the Samaritan are remarkable on many levels, but especially because he was on a journey, headed to a destination where he would stay, likely for several days. "When I return", he told the innkeeper, he would settle accounts for all that had been needed in the care of the man. With that, the Samaritan committed himself to an ongoing involvement in the life of the wounded man that would continue until the man was able to care for himself. 

The Samaritan did not stop at merely bandaging the hurt places. He committed himself to the man's recovery and provided what was needed for that to happen. Truthfully, I prefer the one-time handout. I'm happy to send blankets to homeless people, but I'm not so quick to involve myself in the lives of those same homeless people, helping them until they are back on their feet. It's the same with those who have a myriad of overwhelming needs. Just like them, I am easily overwhelmed by their need. Not seeing how to deal with all the problems, it's easier to deal with none of them. 

What I've come to realize is the very thing the Samaritan understood all along. He was not responsible for helping every person with trouble along his journey, but he was responsible for one. When he saw with his eyes and his heart, he responded by doing what he could, and it was enough. In that same way, we will never be able to respond to every need our eyes see, but, when God moves our heart with compassion, we can respond to the need of one. 

I think the kind Samaritan was accustomed to helping people along the journey. He had a relationship of trust with the innkeeper that made the man's care possible, so perhaps he had done the same thing for other wounded people along his way. He was the kind of neighbor God has called us to be, responding, one at a time, with all the compassion and care and commitment we can until the injured one has recovered enough to care for themselves.

May we look at the great need around us and allow God to move our hearts with compassion and our hands with action, commitment, and care. Let's not hold back from the one who needs us the most, but love and give as the kind Samaritan, staying involved until the need is completely met. After all, that is exactly what Christ has done for us. 

Go and do the same. 

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