These last couple of weeks, in my readings, I have just felt drawn to the New Testament Gospels. If any of you know me, and my typical preferences within Scripture, it would sound a bit odd that I have focused on such an area. Typically, I find the Gospels so recognizable that I fail to “get much out of them”. On normal days, I gravitate to the Pauline letters or Old Testament passages just out of instinct. But, not lately.
Lately, I have rooted myself in one of the most renowned stories of the entire Bible: The story of the Good Samaritan. Unlike other stories, the lessons of the fallen stranger are quite familiar and spiritually fundamental to us all. Often used as a lesson in ethical behavior, the story of the Good Samaritan falls into one of two categories: Surprisingly good behavior (for a Samaritan) or surprisingly bad behavior (for a priest or Levite).
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell…” - NIV
When we read this story, and place ourselves in the same situation, it is quite natural to align ourselves with the praiseworthy Samaritan. We would never leave a poor stranger to weep in pain. We would never ignore the needs of the less fortunate. We would never outweigh compassion with indifference…would we?
When we really think about our lives, it becomes painfully obvious that anyone who really knows Jesus first knew utter helplessness. We were once the demoralized stranger. We were once in need of compassion. In need of a helping hand. In need of a good neighbor.
This story is not just a lesson on what we are to do; it is a lesson of what’s been done. Before we start picking which side we want to be on, we should first decide who we are in the story. We are not the Samaritan. We are not the priest or Levite. We are the victim.