It’s a familiar story. One we have heard a hundred times.
It is such a popular story that it has become a cultural norm when we want to point out someone who is doing good.
We’ve even included it in our secular laws, the Good Samaritan Law - protecting anyone trying to help their neighbor - even if things go wrong.
It attempts to convey what it means to be kind in a hurting world.
But this is NOT a story about being nice. This is a story about transforming the world through the power of the Gospel.
In the story, Jesus is sharing that there are three types of people along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho.
The first type are the robbers – whose motivation in life is “what is yours is mine at whatever cost.”
And the robbers will take whatever they need through violence, coercion, and whatever means necessary.
These are the people who leave us physically, mentally, or emotionally beaten and bruised along life’s road with nothing left but our shallow breath.
The second type of person to walk along the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho is represented by the priest and the Levite – whose motivation is “what’s mine is mine— and I must protect it even if it means you get hurt in the process.”
They aren’t bad people. Both the priest and the Levite are deeply respected in their communities. They very likely follow all the social rules and norms. They sit on local governing boards. They pay their taxes on time and help in their neighborhoods.
They also show a great deal of love to those within their immediate communities – but because of what crossing the road to help – might cost them . . . they put their heads down and go about their business.
So without even recognizing it – they do more harm than good. Their focus is inward – toward their needs and the needs of those who are most like them.
It’s the motivation that leads the good and decent priest and Levite toward a life of valuing their reputations — instead of their relationships.
And it often results in them choosing their own individual rights over the health and well-being and the rights of others.
Unfortunately, this is the group where I fall most often in my life, and if we are all being honest with ourselves – it’s the group that most of us fall into more than we care to admit: play it safe. Stay in your comfort zone. Don’t rock the boat. And let others take care of themselves.
But then – there is the Samaritan - one of the despised groups for the Jews in Jesus’ day – whose motivation, much to the surprise of Jesus’ audience – is love.
And along one of the most dangerous roads in all of history – is motivated by the understanding of “what is mine is yours – if you need it.”
My safety is yours - if you need it.
My security is yours - if you need it.
My resources are yours - if you need them.
My health is tied to your health.
My well-being is tied to your well-being.
Dr. Martin Luther King preached on this text often and once said that the real difference between the priest and the Levite from the Samaritan – is the question they must have asked themselves.
The priest and the Levite likely asked: “If I stop to help this man - what will happen TO ME?”
While the Samaritan likely asked a very different question: “If I don’t stop to help this man - what will happen TO HIM?”
Fear has a way of making us behave badly. It was true for the priest and the Levite, and it is still true for us today.
When fear is the motivation of our lives - we tend to cling to our own safety and our own individual rights.
When fear is the motivation of our lives - we end up placing our hope in thinking: “It is against my rights.” OR “don’t tell me what to do” as opposed to Jesus’ greatest commandments: “Love God and love your neighbor.”
It doesn’t take looking very long to know that right now – we are all on the road somewhere between Jerusalem and Jericho.
It’s a dangerous world out there. The heart-breaking exhaustion of just getting by is real.
It’s not just a virus we have been dealing with now for two years – but it’s everything else, too.
It’s the layer upon layer of being beaten down and bruised along a dry, hard, and often times, lonely road.
So – we have choices to make. We can choose to make our decisions out of fear. And for a time, choices based on fear have a way of making us feel safe – but that is fleeting at best.
The other choice is to cross the road to help our neighbor. When we cross to the other side, we will get a glimpse of something Jesus talked an awful lot about.
We will see what transformation looks like.
We will finally understand who we are called to be.
And best of all, we will finally encounter the Kingdom of God we’ve been longing for – and are consistently invited by Jesus to help build.
Moments in time...