Summary: The Parable of the Good Samaritan offers the unique opportunity to see compassion at work outside of Israel. Compassion can change our lives, our churches, and our world.
The Law of Love: How Compassion Can Change Your Life
By The Rev. Rian Adams
Have you ever wondered how to spot a hypocrite? It’s possible to spot them in their natural habitat… hiding behind religious rules instead of living the law of love.
That happened in today's Gospel lesson. It mentions three religious leaders who all chose the rules over compassion. A lawyer, a Levite, and a priest. A Lawyer was a scholar of the Law of Moses. He taught Jews the rules of purity preserved from earlier generations. A Levite was a person of a specific genealogy who served as assistants to the priests in the temple. Then, a priest who performed sacrifices and rituals to appease God through keeping God’s rules.
So, a lawyer asked Jesus how to interpret a certain subject about the law.
He didn't ask hoping to learn; he asked trying to trap Jesus with the Law of Moses. If he did he could prove, once and for all, that Jesus was a heretic and should die for denying the law of Moses.
This is one of the most well-known parables around the world. The message is that religious laws should not derail compassion and love. That’s my sermon today:
“The Law of Love: How Compassion Can Change Your Life.”
There are two contrasting laws in the passage; The law of purity (or as I call it “The law of being right”), and the law of love that brings compassion.
1---So first let’s look at the law of purity.
Moses said God spoke to him and gave commandments, laws, and rules. Their purpose was to keep the Jews pure in God’s eyes. Fast-forward 1500 years and the religious leaders in Jesus’s day were consumed with the rules. They wanted to appease God instead of please God. And they didn‘t was to be like “those people” across the border.
The lawyer said, “The essence of the law is to love God, and love our neighbor.” Well, who is my neighbor?”
It’s a loaded question because they considered others unclean. The lawyer thought his neighbor was only a God-fearing Jew.
Jesus answered with a story, “A man went toward Jericho, while he walked robbers and thieves beat him and threw him beside the road in a ditch. A priest and a Levite walked past him because if the man was dead the priest was “unclean.” Then a Samaritan walked by and saved his life.”
Then Jesus flipped the Law of purity upside down, “Who is the man’s neighbor?”
It was a scandalous story because a Samaritan was not a Jew’s neighbor. In fact, the feud between the two was over a hundred years old in the time of Christ. They both claimed land, and they both claimed to be the true descendants of Abraham.
It was so tense that Jews wouldn’t walk through the land of the Samaritans for risk of uncleanness in the eyes of God. They walked fifteen miles out of the way just to avoid “those people.”
The Samaritans were not their neighbors.
Nothing chokes compassion like a man armed with a rule from God and the political power to enforce it. In 1st century Judaism the priests were the politicians.
What I call “being culturally right” was a battle Jesus fought. And, we still fight it today. We see it in today’s culture wars. Our “political priests” separate us into factions and parties instead of uniting us through mercy and compassion.
We especially see it in the media when they back a certain political priest. They tell us there is only one pure and right way to think. Research shows that news starts with a story, then evokes a sense of fear, then tells you how to interpret the story based on what is “right” in their minds.
Researchers and mental health professionals noticed an exponential increase in anxiety over the past twenty years. A top scholar in the field of anxiety, psychologist Graham Davey, found out why the numbers of diagnosis and prescriptions continue to increase. His research led him to TV and internet news. He says that those who watch and read news over fifteen minutes a day are substantially more negative. It gets worse. Their potential for generalized anxiety disorder skyrockets as does the chance for other health related disorders.
It's not healthy to allow those with singular agendas manipulate us into fear in the name of “being right in the culture’s eyes.” We don’t have to be right in the eyes of the priests, the Levites, or today’s politicians.
2---We can choose The Law of Love
There's a contrast… the Law of love is the way of Christ, and it leads to compassion. It rescues the outsider and cares for the starving child in the ditch. Love doesn’t need to be politically correct because it doesn’t use hungry children as an agenda, it has mercy.