Won’t you be my neighbor?
“… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” —Colossians 3:12
When Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan, he does so in response to a man who is more interested in passing judgment on Jesus’ teaching than he is in gaining wisdom. If we are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, then for those folks who want to make sure that they do things exactly right, the question is required: Who is my neighbor?
This question can’t be any more relevant to daily life than it is right now. There may have been times in the past when we might have imagined that we could move through our days independently minding our own business while others minded theirs. American culture seems to love the image of the self reliant individual who brings to any challenge a fierce independence that rejects any offer of help as an affront to our personal sovereignty that risks placing us in a position of indebtedness to others and, consequently, weak. We imagine that we can always take care of our own business on our own.
“I am inclined to do things on my own. That way I know it’s done right.“
It’s like some sort of all-encompassing honor code where there can be no possibility of authorized aid.
The past two years have taught us that we are not independent. A highly transmissible virus forces us to acknowledge that our neighbors’ welfare depends heavily on our good behavior. We can’t simply go through life making our own choices for ourselves and imagine that they have no bearing on anyone else. When the priest and the Levite in Jesus’ story see the beaten man lying by the side of the road and pass him by, they are acting independently and their actions are a danger to the man who is suffering.
Our lessons have not just been taught to us by the coronavirus. Calls for racial justice and the increasing volatility of the weather caused by climate change is compelling us to recognize that our lives are not just impacted by our actions or those of our neighbors – either close by or around the globe. Our lives are significantly conditioned by the attitudes and actions of generations that preceded us. Just as surely, the generations that follow us will inherit the impact of our own attitudes and actions for good or ill.
When Jesus’ story places the unexpected and racially profiled Samaritan in the role of the helping neighbor, he’s not just trying to call us to action. Jesus is telling us how things are. Regardless of the barriers that we imagine are between us and others, we are all in this life together, even across the barriers of culture, distance, and time.
It’s the way things are.
The hope of the Christian gospel (or good news) is based on the fact that in Jesus, God comes to be with us in all of it, too. Ours is not a God who stands at a distance waiting to see if we’ll finally get it right and save ourselves or prove ourselves worthy of acclaim. Ours is a God who shows up on both sides of the Samaritan story. He is both the unexpected Samaritan paying for our care with his own gifts and he is the one who is beaten, whose wounds we are called to bandage and who has been raised up from the dead.
When we reach out to care for each other we don’t do so just to keep the suffering at bay. We do so as a people who have been called into a life that is being restored through God‘s own actions and we are honored to be involved in God’s good work.
We give and receive compassion as a gift from God.
Aug. 25, 2021
Image credit: The Good Samaritan by Vincent VanGogh
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A call to courage for 2021
- A charming tale for over-achievers
- A Lesson On Beans … and Being
- A New Place
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- A Time of Dust
- Acquiring a peaceful spirit
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Anastasis: the Greatest Story of God’s Saving Power
- Another kind of darkness
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- As if we needed a reminder
- Beacons of hope
- Better Together
- Blessings As You Go
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Fear of the Lord
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Getting through this together
- God is not overwhelmed
- Good Friday
- Grief & Graduation
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How do you keep from giving up hope?
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- Imagining Eternity
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In everything, grateful
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Jesus among us
- Killing off our future selves
- Knowing a Good Thing When We See It
- Lessons in fire building
- Let there be light!
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- Naming our demons
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- On the day after the night before
- Persistent and Extravagant
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Praying for Reconciliation
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Rest is Holy
- Right where we are
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Surprisingly Simple: Breathe!
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Trouble with Mammon
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You might be a Lutheran if…
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- WWJD? We already know
- Walking in the Light of Jesus’ Resurrection
- We had hoped
- We’re on a mission from God
- What do you do with your anger?
- What good is a shepherd?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When God uses something terrible for good
- When heaven & earth click
- When joy and sadness live together
- When stress overwhelms
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- When we are moved
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Won’t you be my neighbor?
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future