A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away called Coos Bay, Oregon, Jonathon and I assisted with VBS. That’s Vacation Bible School to all of you great unwashed. We weren’t helping with the kids, per se, but the skits. The skits introduced the day’s lesson. We worked with several young actors, all aglow with teenage angst, eye rolls, sighs and hormones.
Anyhoo, I don’t remember the name of this purchased production. It utilized island-type music and the songs were fun. One particularly caught our ear: “The Good Samaritan Song”. I’ve looked for it in vain on youtube, but it went a little something like this:
A man was walking down the road
And robbers beat him up!
They took his money (bom bom bom)
It was not funny (bom bom bom)
By this time, I’m laughing like a crazy girl. The song was so upbeat and happy! The man was beat up and robbed. Hallelujah! I could never get the rest of the words because I couldn’t get past the first part of the song. Plus, I couldn’t hear over the sound of my own giggling. The song’s chorus was good, too:
I want to be your helper
I want to be your helper
And show God’s love to you
And be a good Samaritan too
The idea of the song was a good one. Showing God’s love, like I read in Luke 10 today, is a good thing. Jesus has the discussion with a religious leader who wants to know how to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers his question with a question: “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26)
The man, trained well in the Torah, says, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all you mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Deut. 6:5, Lev. 19:18).
Jesus essentially says, “Bravo! Do this and you’ve got it.”
But the man has another, seemingly innocuous question.
“And who is my neighbor?”
Ah. Now we’re getting to it. Who indeed? Who is worthy of my time and attention? Because we are finite, we certainly can’t love everyone. Who gets a piece of this pie and whom can we ignore?
Jesus has a parable for that. (Insert song). Luke 10:30 is where we pick up the story. A man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up and left him half dead beside the road. By chance he was passed by a priest, who crossed to the other side of the road lest he defile him self. He walked on. A Levite (Temple assistant in my version) walked over and looked at him, then he passed by on the other side of the road also.
Lastly, a despised Samaritan (v. 33) came along. He felt compassion for the man. He covered his wounds with oil and wine and bandaged them. He put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn. Obviously, he knew the area well enough to find a good place for the man to recuperate. He paid for the man’s care, telling him to do what was necessary to get the hurt man well and the Samaritan would settle up the bill when he passed by again.
Jesus questioned the man again: “Who was this man’s neighbor?” (v.36)
The leader replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Jesus’ response? “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Hey, wait a second! That’s a lot of work! What do you mean, having me take on every hobo who falls into my lap? And, Jesus, you managed to insult all the religious upper crust with one story, thankyouverymuch.
Jesus seems to be calling out all the training the priests and Levites imbibed. Somehow the capacity for compassion got rubbed right out like some of kind of grape juice stain. You will never be able to “love your neighbor as yourself” without compassion or empathy. It’s simply not possible. You must put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or have walked that path yourself. Jesus also wanted people to know that if you’re really loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, loving your neighbor as yourself shouldn’t be a huge stretch. God’s love is alive in you already.
Every time I’ve heard this parable, the focus has been on how great the Samaritan was. It should be on that. He did a great thing. But I think we need to look at ourselves and see if maybe we *do* have compassion but don’t know where or how to apply it. Perhaps our training in one form or another has taken us aside and told us “don’t bother”. Heck, it’s safer not to get involved…right? Where can we help others? Who are the hurt people lying in our road?
And for goodness’ sake, somebody write a better song about it!