Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25-37
For the expert in the law, it is all about clearly defined rules. And he knows them, too. He knows them so well he thinks he can challenge Jesus. How sad that he completely misses the point. How sad that what fills his head fails to penetrate his heart. Jesus came to fulfil the law, to free him from the rules, and to give him eternal life. If he knew that, it would completely change everything. He would not stand there debating, either. He would be out doing.
Jesus’ story about the Samaritan and the beaten man is a perfect example of how Jesus changes the rules. Does the expert see himself in the story? Can he recognize that he is also a “road crosser,” like the priest and the Levite? Perhaps he should also see himself in the wounded man – someone with a different kind of wound. A man also in need of compassion.
There is only one way to respond to Jesus’ final question. The expert is forced to answer in a way that must have made him squirm: the Samaritan –an outsider, an enemy –is the neighbour to the wounded man. Jesus has expertly tested the expert. There is nothing left to say.
Compassion, like that of the Samaritan’s, cannot be about rules. Compassion must engage the heart. As love for our Heavenly Father deepens and broadens, compassion for our neighbour will flow out of that love. As we more and more understand what it is to receive grace, we will be grace-filled and will love our neighbour out of thankfulness.
Who is our neighbour? We answer with the expert that our neighbour is the one in need. But perhaps we should first see the need in ourselves. We are not so different from our neighbour; the “wounds” may just look different, like the Samaritan. He may not have had external wounds but he was despised and marginalized in Jewish society. Let compassion come from those places of pain and weakness that we share.
And notice the kind of compassion Jesus offers is practical. The Samaritan happened to be on the same road as the beaten man. He was thorough and generous in his help, but he helped within his means. The Samaritan took care of the man’s wounds, but it meant paying the innkeeper to look after him beyond that initial care.
Similarly, we may look for opportunities to be compassionate where we are. There may be different places to serve, and some may ask us to go outside of our comfort zone. We must be thorough –not only looking to immediate needs, but thinking deeper about the injustices that contribute to the context. We must also think about longer-term solutions for the people to whom we show compassion. And there may be an “innkeeper” whose partnership will help, when it is beyond our capacity to respond further.
Jesus is practical. He turns a test around, and into an opportunity for instruction. The parable silences His accuser, but it can also teach so much about the compassion that Jesus Himself exhibited in His life and ministry. Praise God that in a small way each one of us, in our own context, may proclaim freedom from the rules, and allow our hearts to be engaged for the hurting, the mistreated and the marginalized.
How would your diaconate stand up to Jesus’ test?