Summary: If can help someone solve a problem, then solve it!
I want to begin with the parable that I just read: The story of the Good Samaritan. I just want to point out some historical elements. This parable is only included in the book of Luke. Luke was a Gentile in the Jewish religion. See, Christians were not viewed as separate from the Jews until the 2nd century. And all through the 1st century, a group of people known as the Judaizers was active. They believed that all these “Christians” that were being converted had to follow Jewish law and follow Jewish customs. They were not separated until the 2nd century when their influence on Christians began to fade. Now, that’s not quite the point. Why was he the only one who wrote this parable? Why is it that followers of Jesus such as Matthew and Mark, and John, one of Jesus’ closest companions did not include this parable? It is because none of them felt the same way about the Samaritans as Luke did. Luke was Greek. He had no beef with the Samaritans as did the other three authors of the gospels. He was a Gentile without a bias, and more importantly, he was a Christian without a bias. He was not influenced by the Judaizers to hate Samaritans, and in return, he was not a Jew to be hated by the Samaritans. He was writing this gospel intentionally to a wealthy gentile like himself named Theophilus, and I think that by including this parable in his gospel, he was attempting to show how a Christian is truly supposed to act: Helping everyone equally without a bias. Now, when I use that word “bias”, I’m not particularly focusing on the type that we usually think of which is racial, ethnic, or gender bias; but I’m focusing more the type that we don’t often recognize even within ourselves. I’m talking about the bias of not liking someone because of their attitude, or their political view, or maybe you disagree on the smallest thing and this is expanded in your own mind. Let me give you an example from my own experience. I just finished my first semester at Houghton College and my first week there, I met a guy in my Pre-calculus class; I’ll call him Jeff. Jeff did not understand Pre-calc at all, he tried harder and studied more of it than anyone I knew, and his term project partner was worse off than he was. On the other hand, I picked it up rather easily and had the smartest person in class as my term project partner. Why is this relevant? Jeff is a Communications major, he has an incredibly lame sense of humor that no one seems to get, he hangs out in the radio station all day, and is seemingly always focused on politics. Jeff has a personality almost exactly like mine. For some reason, he turned to me for assistance in math whenever he needed help. I would show him a few things, but I wouldn’t really help him solve the problem. Little did I know that I was reflecting this type of bias I am speaking about to you this morning. I did not realize the cruelty of my actions until a couple weeks before finals, and when I realized my error, I immediately called Jeff and asked if he wanted to review the next afternoon. What I had done earlier in the semester was absolutely wrong, and I’m going to tell you a story now that I think will explain why and will also help us to better apply Luke’s lesson to our own lives.
One day a man was walking down the street and he fell into a hole. He cried out for help to everyone that passed his way. First to stop was a rich man. He threw some money down the hole, called down to the man, “Buy yourself a ladder!”, and moved on. Well, that didn’t get the man out and he continued to cry for help. Soon after the rich man passed by, a priest came along and stopped. He prayed a prayer for the man in the hole, called down, “See you in church!”, and went along his way. Well, that didn’t get the man out either, and so he continued to cry out. Well, eventually, his friend came along, heard his cry, saw him in the hole, and jumped down with him. Stunned, the man turned to his friend and said, “What did you do that for? Now we’re both stuck down here!” His friend replied, “Because I have been here before, and I know the way out.” Now, that’s a nice story, but it applies directly to our daily lives. Think to yourself how many times you’ve encountered someone having a problem. You know the solution, but all you do is give them money and let them figure it out for themselves. Or maybe you tell them, “I’ll be praying for you.” That is the easy way out if we know how to solve the problem. The true friend (the Christian) shows them how to solve a problem that their friend is in, that their brother is in; that their neighbor is in. Now, let’s combine that parable with the one in Luke. Does it matter who it is down in the hole? Do we intentionally help some people and not others? Are we afraid of the extra effort it might take to help someone that is handicapped or in need of a little extra assistance? Let’s take this application deeper. When we willingly help a non-Christian, do we then in return expect them to start following our lifestyles, like Judaizers? Do we tell ourselves in our hearts that if we don’t see them at church after a while that we won’t help them anymore? Do we put conditions on our help? Do we say to ourselves, “I’ve helped this person out of this situation fifteen times now, and if they get into it again, I’m not helping them?” Jesus certainly didn’t set that example in his life, and Luke wasn’t sending that message to Theophilus when he included that parable with the Samaritan. The message sent from Luke to Theophilus, the message conveyed by the parable of Jesus, our dearest friend, to us is this: Help everyone you can to the fullest extent. Do everything you can to solve their problem even if they can never return the favor, especially if they can never return the favor. God bless.