Welcome to “Boosts from the Bible,” our spiritual devotion that delves into the depths of the Holy Scriptures, in order to receive a boost of God’s wisdom and love…a boost of God’s hope and peace during this weird time.
As we continue during this strange time, I have been praying and wondering just HOW some of our most popular bible passages could apply to our crisis today. So, on “Boosts from the Bible” we have looked at passages like the 23rd psalm, the story of Joseph in Egypt, passages from Paul when he was in prison, and things Jesus has said. Now, one of the methods Jesus loved to use in order to get His message across to His hearers was through little stories the gospel writers called “parables,” which comes from the Greek word, “parabola.”
The most basic parabola, in geometry, is a simple curve that is symmetrical. At any point along this curve it can be equally distant from a certain nearby point and from a nearby line. There are these “parallel computations” that can be done using parabolas. Likewise, these stories of Jesus applied parallels between what people were doing in His story and what Jesus wants US to do in order to believe and to build up the Kingdom – or Way – of God. Act like the person in this story, Jesus sometimes said, and your life will be pleasing to God!
One of my favorite parables – and our “BOOSTS FROM THE BIBLE” focus for today – is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Now, if you KNOW that parable you might be thinking, “How can the Good Samaritan parable be helpful for those of us who are – most of the time – ISOLATED in our own homes? After all, the Samaritan LEFT HIS home and traveled, and then – not social distancing – helped the injured man on the side of the road; he touched him and held him; they were physically close, and breathed on each other; the injured man probably bled on the Samaritan. So, given the different circumstances, just WHAT would the Samaritan do during this pandemic? What PARALLELS can we find between this parable and our situation today?
First, let’s go back to the parable itself. I’ll read the parable, starting with the situation that led to Christ’s telling OF this parable:
“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He [the lawyer] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Okay…Well, first, let me point out one big difference between now and then: back then, there were no hospitals. In fact, many hospitals were later founded by Christians; you see back then Christians thought that since God made this world in an orderly way, if people were trained as surgeons, doctors and nurses, they could rely on the scientific, orderly way of how God made the world, and give sick people medicines that could heal them. And that is what has happened over these last few centuries in a most spectacular, loving way. But the Good Samaritan did all that one knew to do back then – what he COULD do to start the healing; he put the natural disinfectant of wine and the natural salve of oil on the wounds, then bandaged him, and then took the injured man to the next best thing to a hospital, an inn. There, an innkeeper might have had so many experiences with injured travelers that he could take care of that man – for a price. And the Good Samaritan paid that price, giving the innkeeper two days’ pay, and promised to pay the innkeeper whatever expenses were incurred on his return – remember, the Samaritan was on a business trip.
Now there’s THREE THINGS that the Samaritan does…3 things…that we can learn from – that can help us improve our service to others in these strange times. First, the Samaritan is willing to be distracted from his planned business trip. I’ll bet many of you, even during COVID, have planned to do this this day and that that day, but it just never worked out that way. I know it’s happened to me many times! Extraordinary times do not stick with the usual script. There’s always something new to adjust to; there’s always some news – whether good or bad – about someone you know – some change in plans or cancellations or new ways to do things that we constantly have to adjust to. And that’s where the Samaritan shows us the way; armed with a faith that if he swerves from his plans it will still turn out all right, the Samaritan feels for the man and decides to help him. He starts the healing process and then he takes him to where other people can help, and he pays whatever it takes for the healing to continue.
Now, here’s the thing. What WE are called to do is be THAT Good Samaritan – perhaps the VIRTUAL kind – that may find someone “injured on the road,” so to speak – we find someone hurting emotionally or spiritually through our virtual contacts – and so, like the Samaritan, we are called by God to stop what we were doing and focus in on them, giving them the gospel of attention…the gospel of peace…the gospel of courage…the gospel of affection…the gospel of kindness…the gospel of joy…giving them the gospel of love. We are called to POUR the gentle, mellifluous oil of our soft words and soothing actions over that person’s wounded feelings, kind of like the Good Samaritan. And we may have to “stop by the roadside” of our days, so to speak, to care for others…and not just be interrupted ONE day, but perhaps MANY days, yet every day with God’s help.
The second servant-oriented thing we can learn from the Samaritan in these strange times is to make sure we get our rest. Now I think this is a hard thing right to do at this time. We live in “no boundary land.” Round the clock we are constantly hearing more news, dealing with this and that, and then this and that…like I said before…many things come up to distract us and keep us busy, especially learning to do new things new ways. The Good Samaritan had this injured fellow on his hands, plus he was in the middle of a business trip. So what did he do? He DID NOT RUSH. He did not rush it at all. Jesus tells us that he came to the inn and stayed overnight. He stayed overnight! Yes, he continued to help the injured man. But he rested. He rested. He gathered strength for the next day. That’s what God wants us to do: “Rest on the seventh day” is one of God’s Top Ten Commandments! So let us rest.
The final thing – the third servant-oriented thing we can learn from the Samaritan in these strange times – is to let others help you help people. Did you get that? “Let others help you help people.” The Good Samaritan knew he could NOT DO IT ALL; he went and relied on the innkeeper, who maybe was able to do better for the injured man than the Samaritan could. And when we recruit others to help us to serve, it’s also great to do what the Samaritan did next with his new recruit – he gave him money – gave him a resource. So…we are called not only to recruit somebody, but inspire them…give them the resources, give them courage to see the next stage through as you place responsibility in their hands. Also, as the Samaritan did, come back later and see what more YOU can do.
When Jesus had finished his parable, He asked the lawyer, “Which, of the 3 who walked by the injured man, was a neighbor to him?” and the lawyer reluctantly answered (because, being a Jew, he hated Samaritans), “The neighbor was the one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus adds, “Go and do likewise.” So may we – with the help of the Spirit of God working inside of us – “go and do likewise.” During this weird time, let us, within the restrictions we live under, look around us and then check on the person we see who is suffering, mentally, spiritually or otherwise; let us then do what we can for that person, and then rest, gather again our own energy, and let others help us help others. Rinse and repeat…rinse and repeat…for the Samaritan story is not just about taking on the Christ-like privilege of helping one person one day…it’s about taking on this Christ-like service over MANY days and weeks…THESE strange days…as we “go and do likewise’! Amen!
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