In Luke 10:30-37, a certain lawyer approaches Jesus with a spiritual question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” How fitting that a legal expert would ask Jesus about a subject he was trained to understand. Jesus points this man and the rest of us to the law of heaven, “Whoever loves God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind, and whoever loves their neighbor as themselves will have eternal life.” This arrogant attorney was only pretending to make sure he understood clearly whom he is obligated to love, and continued another attempt to justify his prejudice. “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds to this second query with the story of the Good Samaritan.
The Good Samaritan was obviously a sensitive and caring person who at significant cost to himself, stopped to help a wounded stranger that had been beaten and robbed and was being ignored by everyone passing by. Making his rescue attempt even more remarkable is the fact that he was a Samaritan and the man who was hurt was his Jewish neighbor. You see, traditionally Jews and Samaritans despised each other. It’s true the Samaritan is the hero of the story and a model of Biblical compassion, but his actions should not be seen as extraordinary. This is the standard attitude of Christian love that God expects or more accurately He demands from all of His followers as a normal lifestyle. Some of the villains in this true account are surprisingly the religious leaders who turned their heads and their hearts away and acted as if they did not see the crisis. It’s easy to heap scorn on such callous disregard, but there is also a good chance we may have fared no better. These respected figures within the community might have felt pity for the victim and may have even said a silent prayer for him as they passed by, however, refusing to become involved was sadly based on racial bigotry and political correctness.
We have also driven past those who hold signs begging for help which leaves us with countless opinions. We’ve heard stories about those who are professional scammers and how they play on people’s emotions. There are always reasons and excuses why we do not pick up hitchhikers or help those who sleep under bridges and mostly it’s because we would rather not be involved. We know it’s critical to use our spiritual discernment, but should we try to help everyone? We can imagine what the people in our story were thinking for example, “I’m not comfortable or trained to treat wounds, and I’m afraid he might have a disease.” “What if he dies, I will be blamed.” Maybe they justified their decision with the idea they should not be expected to be responsible for everyone else’s problems. Others might have been suspicious this person was a criminal and deserved what happened and this was his punishment. Or maybe they were just really busy that day or were late for a lunch date or an important meeting. Whatever reasons these individuals deemed it either too costly or insignificant, Jesus condemns them. To love their neighbor at that moment required stopping what they were focused on and deciding to do what was right.
Jesus continues to teach these spiritual principles as He declares in Matthew chapter 25, that whatever we refuse to do for others, we are also ignoring to consider Him. This includes our love. So, how crucial is it to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit and be ready to serve? The people in this Matthew passage are sent into eternal damnation because they failed to care for the needy. Remember the rich man and Lazarus. Romans chapter 12 speaks directly to believers about the practical and often painful ministry of being a living sacrifice. This means we should be prepared to act when a divine appointment presents itself as having a higher level of spiritual discernment is why we talk so much about walking in the awareness of God’s presence. Being sympathetic is not enough as James says in 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” How is feeling sorry for someone helping anything? Until our minds are renewed to resist our carnal selfish nature, we will never be like Jesus.
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