Imagine that you are attending a seminar session at a law conference. You and your friend are both students who were assigned to participate in this meeting. You both enter into the lecture hall, scan the auditorium, and find your seats. As you start flipping through the seminar program in your hands, your friend turns to you and asks “Have you ever heard of the speaker? There is something different in the way he presents himself.” The lights then start to dim, and the presenter is introduced, It’s Jesus.
During his keynote, you are jotting down notes and taking in every word that comes out of his mouth. As he concluded his presentation, he opens the floor to questions.Being a law student, you wanted to see if this guy is credible. You raise your hand, and one of the disciples runs up the aisle and hands you the mic.You introduce yourself and ask Jesus this question, “How can I inherit eternal life?”
Jesus smiles and asks, “What does it say in the law? I’m sure that you have read it.”You respond, “It says to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And it also states that I must love my neighbor as myself.”Jesus applauds you and says, “Excellent. Do exactly what you have just said, and you will have it. Anybody else?”“One more question.” You grab the microphone back and ask, “Who is my neighbor? Is it my friend beside me, the man behind me, or the woman in front of me? Who is it?”Jesus then goes explain one of the most famous parables in history, The Good Samaritan.
We know the story. A particular man travels from Jerusalem and gets mugged by thieves. He loses his possessions and is left severely beaten.Both a Priest and a Levite walk by and ignored him, but a certain Samaritan picked up the beaten traveler. The Samaritan then took him to an inn and promised to pay any financial debts that would set the innkeeper back as he cared of the traveler.
We have heard this story at church events or have seen it illustrated in dramas. We have seen it used to demonstrate the concept of perfect Christianity. It is also used to teach on understanding real Christian values, but I have another understanding of it, along with that. I believe that Jesus told this parable to describe how we are to handle a situation in which a friend has been stripped from their joy and left to die spiritually. In my understanding of this story, I found that Jesus outlined two methods of helping a friend in spiritual need.
1. There is still life
When we are helping a friend in spiritual need, we must recognize that there is still life and that there is still room for them to be spiritually fed. Because of their religious culture, the Priest and the Levite were not allowed to have any contact with a dead body.It was considered unclean in the Jewish religion.They both assumed that life was gone from the man’s body and just kept walking to their destination. They did not even put their hand over his mouth to check to see if there was breath.
We as Christians see people who we think are spiritually dead, but I believe that their appearance is an illusion. As the scripture states in John 10:10, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. As the thieves took the man’s belongings, they never took his life. The people who have the appearance of a spirituality dead body were just robbed of their spiritual identity, and they need assistance to get back up and live for God. No matter the situation, no matter what the enemy steals from our colleagues or us, he will never take the life that God has given us.
2. We give what we can
We use what we have when helping our friends. We have had those moments when they start asking questions about life. These type of questions can take us by surprise and make us look like a deer in the headlights because we have never learned or have done a study on the topic ourselves. We don’t always have the answer, and that is okay.
When the Samaritan picked up the man from Jerusalem, he placed him on the animal he was traveling with, bound up his wounds, and brought him to the inn. The Samaritan used the resources he owned to take him to the inn. He did this because he knew that what he had would get the wounded traveler to a place where he could recover and that the host would keep watch over him.
Those who are spiritually wounded are probably suffering from the aftershock of a spiritual earthquake. The aftershock includes symptoms of confusion, doubt, anger, fear and so on. We pray for them, we fast for them, and we love them. What we are doing is binding up the wounds and keeping them alive to take them to the inn, which is the church body.
The Samaritan never tried to be the doctor and perform surgery on the man. He just bounded up the wounds to keep him alive. When those questions arise from a friend who is suffering from a situation that we have not experienced, it is okay to say, “I don’t know, but I know somebody at the church who has gone through the same thing you are facing. Would you like to come with me this Sunday or Wednesday to meet them?”
You are back at the seminar amazed at the story you just heard. You understand that loving your neighbor when they’re spiritually hurt, is in two steps: To remember that there is still room for life to grow and to use the resources we have to take them to the church body. Jesus then asks you the question, “Now who was the neighbor to the man who fell among the thieves?”You respond with saying, “The one who showed mercy on him.”Jesus smiles at you again, as a teacher applauds a student. He then states, “Go and do so likewise.”