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The church, the Scribe and the Good Samaritan

19th June 2010

I recently took a fresh look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. I saw that it applies not only to individual people but also to the church. It starts with a question:

Luke 10v25-29
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?

The church, more than anyone, should be expert in the law of God. Romans 6v14 says "you are not under law, but under grace" and some Christians make the mistake of imagining that this means the law doesn't matter, but we who love God should be careful to keep His law. And the two most important commands are "Love God" and "Love your neighbour".

The church can often make the same mistake that this scribe does, when he asks Jesus "who is my neighbour?" He was trying to reduce his responsibility in keeping God's law, and so do we. We probably know this passage of Scripture well enough not to ask the question out loud, or in these words, but we are often guilty of loving each other while ignoring those who are different from us. As Jesus says elsewhere:

Luke 6v32-33
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that."

Jesus replies by telling the famous story of the Good Samaritan, in which religious people, symbolic of the church, ignored the person in need and "passed by on the other side".

Luke 10v30-35
In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 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. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’

This is God's call to the church: to refuse to pass by on the other side. To tend the needs of all who are suffering. To have pity. To bandage the wounds of others. To take care of those in pain. To give of our time, emotion and money for those in need.

Jesus then brough the message home to the scribe, demanding an answer to the question:

Luke 10v30-35
"Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

And so must we. We must follow in the footsteps of the One who said:

Luke 4v18-19
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour."

That's our job now. Our function in life is to love God and to do good to all who need it. All who hurt, all who are lost, all who need God's love and healing power can find that love and power through the church, and nowhere else.

People hurt for all sorts of reasons: through sickness, through abuse, through demons, through the sins of others and through their own sin. People hurt in their bodies, in the minds, and in their hearts. Most of all, people hurt because they're alienated from God.

The church is called to be the Good Samaritan, the one who cares enough to act. But we can't achieve our mission in our own strength. God gives us His Holy Spirit to help us to help others, and we need His power.