In the Name of Mercy

I’ve been pondering this morning’s message about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

Most may know the story: a Jew was traveling and beset by robbers who took literally everything including the clothes off his body, beat him nearly to death, and left him along the roadside to die.

A Jewish priest and Jewish scribe–religious folks–individually came upon him…and passed him by.

A Samaritan came upon him and did not.

Why is this remarkable? Jews considered Samaritans traitors to the true faith, worse than “pagans” (goyim, or non-Jews, outsiders; most likely Assyrians during and after the Assyiran conquest) because the Samaritans knew the real God and abandoned Him by intermarrying with the goyim in defiance of the Law of Moses.

The enmity between Jew and Samaritan is something we in the West today have a bit of trouble grasping. It was perhaps like the enmity between North and South during the American Civil War. Or black and white up to the Civil Rights movement. Or extreme Left and extreme Right today.

One would think that the culture of hospitality in the Middle East as well as in those times would have been strong enough to compel the Jewish priest and Jewish scholar to aid one of their kinsmen in distress. But no.

This makes me think immediately that neither of them could be inconvenienced. Maybe they didn’t want to be ceremoniously defiled. Maybe they didn’t want anyone to find out they helped “one of those.” Maybe there was that Asian custom (more associated w/ cultures farther east) that requires someone giving aid to ensure that aid continues for the remainder of the victims life.

Bottom line: they wouldn’t be inconvenienced.

And honestly, I could stop right there with a question about how *we* refuse to be inconvenienced, let alone sacrifice (I’ll get into that momentarily).

“But wait! There’s more!”

What did the Samaritan do? He cleaned, bound the wounds of the beaten man, and dressed him in something. He took this man to an inn, paid immediately for several days stay and care, and promised to make good on any additional expenses. Going well out of his way to do so: literally, metaphorically, financially.

The “first aid kit” used was likely something all travelers carried for their own use, since there weren’t any Urgent Care Centers or ERs…or even all that many doctors around. The vast majority of health care of any kind was…diy.

The beaten man was left naked. The Samaritan gave him something from his travel bag…and likely ruined the set he was wearing with the blood that was most likely covering the beaten man.

There were no hospitals or UCCs as noted, so the only place some one could rest, outside of his own home, was an inn. Had the Samaritan just left him there, the innkeeper *might* have taken care of the guy, but would have been within his legal rights to enslave the beaten man until the debt was paid. Note that this slavery, very common in those days, would be much more like what we would call indentured servitude, and the Mosaic Law not only provided for it, but placed limitations on what the master could do and how long it could last.

But the Samaritan ensured that would not happen by paying or providing for all his debts.

And Jesus ends this parable story by saying: “Go Thou and do likewise.” Not literally go look for someone beaten nearly to death, but to be just as extravagantly merciful.

And the Samaritan had to cross numerous boundaries to do so: the Jew/Samaritan divide, and the blowback form his own community; the concern that he might/might not have the resources to complete his journey–what if *he* needed that first aid kit, and food, and money; what kind of debt load might be waiting for him when he returned? What other obligations might need to be postponed while caring for this guy’s needs?

Talk about setting the bar!

On one hand, this clearly points out the enormous disparity between what we might call “mercy” and how God defines it.

On the other hand, it also clearly spotlights the Law (which Jesus summarized as Love God and Love Others) and shows the disparity between it and our ability to obey it.

On the third hand (what? You don’t have one of those?), it stands as an example of exactly what Jesus would do (did) for us in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. We were/are the ones beaten unto death and He crossed the greatest of boundaries to bring us aid.

Chris (today’s speaker) goes into a lot more depth than I am here. I highly recommend taking the hour to watch for yourself.

I am thankful I have such brothers in Christ, such teachers who provoke thought and challenge my status quo. It is, after all, something I also try to do.

Be prepared to consider, as I have, what it means to truly be merciful.

Not to beat yourself up. Honestly, that would be too easy. A bit of rhetorical self-flagellation, a touch of guilt, and we tend to move right along. Don’t do that.

Instead, listen and ponder how you can start to develop such a heartset (not mindset) for this kind of mercy. To “one of those”, however you define your Untouchables. To someone totally (or even somewhat) not like you and your tribe. Shoot, even those “family” members you go out of your way to avoid.

How willing are we to be inconvenienced or to sacrifice in the name of mercy?

*Now* I’ll just leave it there.

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