That was the question a religious leader asked, prompting Jesus to share a short parable we fondly refer to as The Good Samaritan.
We’ve all heard this story. We’ve all been touched by it.
But most of us forget the two verses that come after. Some of us, despite a lifetime in church, have never even heard these words.
Turning back to the man, Jesus asked…
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (NIV)
I can’t help but think we’re missing a crucial lesson Jesus wants us to learn from this story.
The priest and Levite were religious leaders, honored in their communities as righteous men of God. Samaritans, on the other hand, did not share this spiritual pedigree. Yet the hero of this story was the Samaritan, the one who had mercy.
As Christians, we’re so good at padding out spiritual resumes. Like the priest and Levite, we try to rack up religious high scores, through perfect church attendance, t-shirts with Bible verses, and earnest posts on Facebook about the state of our world.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with these things, but the Good Samaritan reminds us…
God isn’t calling us to look impressive. He’s calling us to love.
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” — Matthew 9:13
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” — James 1:27
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” — Matthew 25:40
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” — John 13:35
What would the world look like if the Church got excited about God’s mission of love and mercy?
What would your family, your neighborhood, your office look like if you did the same?
I don’t believe things would be perfect, but I believe they would be better.
That’s why I’ve written a new book called The God Impulse: The Power of Mercy in an Unmerciful World.
Tim Keller has kindly endorsed the book, writing,
“Jack draws a straight line from the lack of teaching and under representation of biblical mercy in the church to the lack of love so many feel from the church. From the familiar Samaritan parable, he unpacks God’s pattern of love of ‘see, go, do and endure’ and gives a practical and helpful diagnostic. He reminds us that true healing, justice, and reconciliation begins with the impulse of mercy towards our neighbors and enemies. I heartily recommend this book.”
I’m looking forward to exploring together how we can be ministers of mercy in this time when it’s so desperately needed.