Summary: Three characteristics that a Christian is challenged to make a part of his or her life are: authenticity, availability, and affirmation.
Luke 10:29-37 “AAA Road Servant”
I suspect that a few of us here have made some New Year’s resolutions. Whether it is to lose weight, pay off debts, relax more, or spend more time with the family, our resolutions display our desire to live better, fuller lives. Even our resolution not to make any New Year’s resolutions demonstrates our wish to live more successful, positive lives.
Among all of our resolutions I hope there are some resolutions to strengthen our faith, widen our love and deepen our commitment to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Today’s text, which is the Parable of the Good Samaritan, reveals three characteristics that we can strive to incorporate in to our lives. They are: authenticity, availability, and being an affirming individual.
These are characteristics that bring to an end our sermons series that has been based on the book, Frogs Without Legs Can’t Hear. During this series, we examined what are the characteristics of a congregation that is committed to Christian discipleship and evangelism. We also talked about four foundational faith practices for a Christian disciple—how to prepare ourselves so that we can prepare the world. This third part of the series provides us with a description of what a Christian disciple looks like.
One characteristic that is immediately apparent in the actions of the Samaritan is his authenticity. We would say that he “practiced what he preached.” He understood that as a child of God he was called to minister to the needs of others—with no exclusions. The way his actions match up to his religious beliefs is viewed in stark contrast to the Levite and the Priest who preceded him and who did not help the beaten man.
Though there was great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans, the Samaritan did not allow that animosity to prevent him from offering aid. He didn’t see a Jew, a Pharisee, a good or bad man, or a rich or poor man. The Samaritan simply saw a man in need, and he acted to meet that need. Not only was the Samaritan authentically religious, he was also authentically human. Being a member of the human family, the Samaritan helped a brother in need.
The Samaritan was authentic in another way, also. The Jews mercilessly put down the Samaritans. To the Jews the Samaritans were half-breeds and no better than the gentiles. The Jesus called the Samaritans “dogs.” The Samaritan did not allow the put downs from others define who he was. He understood himself to be a man of integrity, worth, and innate goodness. Acting from that self-understanding, he helped the man by the side of the road.
Our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers do not need more people preaching to them or judging to them. People are looking for disciples of Jesus Christ who faithfully follow the teachings of Christ and who exhibit love, acceptance, and grace.
A second characteristic of the Samaritan was his availability. We have no idea what his schedule might have been—if he was running behind time or if he had a plethora of appointments once he arrived in Jericho. We only know that the Samaritan made time to minister to the needs of the man lying by the side of the road. Again this is in stark contrast to the Levite and the Priest, who had worship services to attend. They were too busy being good Jews to help the man.
The Samaritan didn’t hurriedly bind up the man’s wounds and rush him to an inn. Rather, he took the time to be with the man, clean and bandage the man’s wounds, and paid for a room at an inn for the man’s recuperation. The Samaritan even promised to return to see how the man was healing and to pay for any unseen expenses.
With our hectic schedules it is difficult for us to make room for the interruptions of ministry. We inwardly groan when a co-worker wants to talk with us about a problem, and we beg off when our children ask us to do something spontaneous. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time. In doing so, however, we declare that we do not have time to minister, because ministry happens during the inconveniences of life.
It’s not news to any of us that the world is a harsh place. Put downs and harsh judgments are a fact of life. Arm chair quarterbacks will always tell us they could have done it better. Bosses will thank us for walking on water and then in the next breath tell us we need to walk farther and go deeper.
The church, unfortunately, has earned the reputation of being very judgmental and not very affirming. Decades ago, people would actually come to church in order to be told how bad they were. Everyone was a sinner destined for hell. God was portrayed as a celestial cop ready to slap us with a ticket—God was never satisfied and never pleased.