The Samaritans are a noble organisation. They listen with grace and patience to people who are at the end of their tether. A friend of mine trained with them and served on the end of a phone. It was an enlightening and challenging experience. I am not sure I could do it.
I see this sign every time I catch the local train. It reminds me of my responsibility to be a ‘Samaritan’. All Christians are called to this role, although perhaps not in the exact same way as today’s charity. How are we to be ‘Samaritans’ according to Jesus?
- Cross the Line. Samaritans were persona non grata to Israelites. The loathing was mutual. Yet this man crossed the line of prejudice to care for one in pain. Would I? In theory, of course. But what about in practice? “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and…passed by on the other side… a Levite…passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and…He went to him…” (Luke 10:31–34 NIV11-GK). One way to check the current state of our hearts is to look at the news headlines. Is there anyone mentioned that you would think of as someone to be avoided at all costs? Recent events include the jailing of Chris Huhne and his former wife. Then there is the case of the blocked extradition of Abu Qatada. What about the ongoing controversy about Jimmy Saville? We can all think of people we would find it hard to speak to, or to be in the same room as – let alone cross the road for, touch and care for. But Jesus challenges us to care for the people we would find hardest to love.
- Carry the Burden. The man cannot help himself. The Samaritan does not blame him, but gets his hands dirty serving him, “He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34 NIV11-GK). Jesus does this for us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29–30 NIV11-GK). We are to do this for one another, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2 NIV11-GK). We demonstrate the love of Jesus when we help people carry burdens too hard for them to deal with on their own. Who’s load can you lighten?
- Continue the Care. If I had crossed the line and carried the burden (to the inn) I reckon I’d have been pretty pleased with myself. But the Samaritan went one step further. He secured the man’s future. “The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’” (Luke 10:35 NIV11-GK). True Christian love is concerned with someone’s future, not just their here-and-now. By this I mean their material and spiritual future.