Summary: Every follower of Jesus Christ is called to be a "Good" Samaritan.
Title: The Kindness of Strangers
Text: Luke 10:25-37
Thesis: Every follower of Christ is called to be a “Good” Samaritan.
I do not want to begin this talk with a disclaimer but I feel I must. Despite my desire to be altruistic with an absolutely unselfish regard for the welfare of others – the years have taught me that not everyone who says they are in need, is in need.
However, despite my cynicism, one of the most profound teachings in scripture is this: What we do, i.e., action, is the measure of our spiritual maturity and knowledge of God. In other words, the more we know about God and the more we know God, that knowledge produces the likeness of God in us.
The bible says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know God,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” I John 2:3-6
Some would say that the most amazing thing about the first followers of Jesus Christ were the signs and wonders… the miracles of healing and the exorcism of spirits. Certainly the dramatic and miraculous signs and wonders were attention getting.
But for me, the most amazing thing about the first followers of Christ was the change in the lives of the followers of Christ. Those folks walked the walk. Their lives were characterized by loving kindness and generosity. In Acts 4 it says, “All the believers were of one heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” Acts 4:32-35 The way they practiced their faith was radical and boggles our minds.
There was no mistaking who those people were and whose teachings they followed. They were living just as Jesus lived and adhering closely to the things he taught. The story of the Good Samaritan ranks among the most memorable of his teaching.
I would like to unpack that story this morning by examining the characters in the story.
A. What does it mean to be a “Bad” Samaritan?
In our story there are two individuals who ignored the wounded victim lying in the ditch. One man was a priest and the other a Levite. They are both Jewish and they are both religious. They both saw the man lying in the ditch, ignored him and continued on their journey. That is all we know about them. However the implication is, they should have helped the victim who was presumably Jewish by race and religion.
They were not Samaritans but we think of them as “Bad” Samaritans because they chose to not lend assistance to a person in desperate need. It would probably be more accurate to refer to them as a “Bad” Priest and a “Bad” Levite.
B. What does it mean to be a “Semi-Good” Samaritan?
Sometimes I think most Christians fall into the category of the “Semi-Good” Samaritan. As “Semi-Good” Samaritans we are willing to be “Good Samaritans” in certain circumstances.
In 2008 the chief editor of Christianity Today Magazine attended the “Loving God and Neighbor Together” dialogue between Christians and Muslims held at Yale University. While there he noticed a critical difference between the Christian and Muslim understanding of love, compassion and mercy...
The Christian participants had been taught by Jesus that love should be indiscriminate and conditioned on nothing other than the wounded man’s need.
The Muslim participants startled the Christians when they explained that their religion places limits on compassion for others. They felt that orphans and widows and others in need through no fault of their own deserve compassion. But Islamic ethics implies that there is no obligation to help a person whose unwise choices and behavior has put them in need.
The essential difference is that one religion teaches that God is a generous God and the other that God is a stingy God. In one religion mercy is conditioned by justice and in the other justice is conditioned by mercy. In other words, in one religion, if a person makes a bed he has to sleep in it. There is no obligation on the part of others to help that person. The other religion acknowledges that people do dumb things but their folly and their mistakes do not disqualify them from receiving mercy and grace.