I usually learn best by example. If someone can give me an example or tell me a story about a concept, I can usually grasp it. That’s why I love Jesus’ method of teaching because He was (and is) a storyteller. That’s one of the reasons why I’m wild about stories, because they do more than just entertain. Stories teach. And it’s the best way for me to learn something.
So this month, I’m studying the Fruit of the Spirit, as explained in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” For the moment I’m studying love. But not just any love–agape (αγαπη) love. It’s the kind of love that we can only have when we are following Christ. It’s 1 Corinthians 13 love.
But it’s one thing to tell me what this kind of love is. It’s something else to show me.
Today’s verses are Luke 10:30-37.
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the best known stories that Jesus’ told, but you really have to understand the historical context for the truth of the story to sink in. The nutshell version is that the Samaritan people weren’t well-liked at all among the Jews. They weren’t Jewish. They were a mixed race people, and the Jews just despised them. Something else we need to understand is who Jesus was telling this story to.
If you look a bit farther back in the chapter, you’ll see Jesus used this story as an answer to a question an expert in religious law asked. The expert had asked a question, trying to trap Jesus, wanting to know what the greatest commandment was. Jesus, of course, had the perfect answer (Love God, Love People), but the expert wanted to justify himself and wanted to know which people he could love and which people he didn’t have to love. This was Jesus’ answer.
I can’t wait to get to heaven so I can talk to people who were there for this moment. One of the joys of my life is sharing movies I love with people who haven’t seen them. I love the huge plot twists that make people gasp, and I love being able to share great stories with people just because I love watching their reactions. And that’s what I imagine happened when Jesus told this story. Because it wasn’t uncommon for a Jewish man to travel between Jerusalem and Jericho. It wasn’t uncommon for someone traveling alone to be attacked by bandits, especially along that particular road. The priest and the temple assistant might have been expected to stop and help, but none of them expected the Samaritan to help.
Samaritans were bad. They were hated. So I’m sure when listeners heard Jesus say a Samaritan was coming, they thought he would finish the poor victim off. But he didn’t. Not only did he stop and take care of the man, he carried him to where he could heal and paid for him to rest, all the while knowing that if their situation had been reversed, the Jewish man would have let him die.
That is agape. That is love.
So how do we demonstrate that in our own lives? Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t often run across men who’ve been beaten and stripped laying by the side of the road. But I do encounter people who are hurting. So maybe it’s not the physical symptoms we need to be looking for but the emotional ones.
Too often we are caught up in our own problems and we don’t notice how much people around us are hurting. I get so focused on what I’m doing that I forget why I’m here–to bring glory to God. And it’s not that I can’t bring glory to God by dealing with my own issues. I absolutely can. But if I reach the end of my life and the only person who I’ve improved is myself, what’s the point?
The trouble with reaching out to people is that we make ourselves vulnerable. People are mean. Let’s just face it. People are selfish. People are frustrating and difficult and stubborn and hurtful, and opening your life to them makes you a target. But it’s worth it.
I love sequels. Even if they aren’t well done sequels, a part of me still enjoys seeing the next step in a character’s growth, and I always have wondered if the Good Samaritan ever met this Jewish man again. That would have been a meeting I would have liked to see, because if the Jewish man was a typical Jewish man of the time, he wouldn’t haven’t given the Samaritan the time of day. And see there’s no indication that the Samaritan wanted the man to know who he was. They could have met on the street, and the Jewish man would have had no idea who he was.
That’s what this kind of love looks like, Christian. It’s the silent servant who catches people when they fall and never asks for recognition.
Don’t hesitate to share this kind of love with people around you. It makes a difference, and it’s something God can use. Look for opportunities to share this kind of love. Be on the lookout for people who are hurting. If you are willing to love people like this, God will change you and He may even change them. You never know what God will accomplish if you simply let Him.