The Gospel lesson on Sunday was one of the most familiar stories in literature. Even if you know nothing about the Bible you know what a Good Samaritan is. Most of us even know that Samaritans were reviled people in Jesus’ day, so making a hero of one was startling to his listeners. I suppose it would be something like making a hero of George Zimmerman in a story told to an African-American congregation.
The dominant interpretation of this story offers three attitudes, or compulsions, toward life from which each of us must choose:
- The first attitude is represented by the bandits who seem to represent those who live by a compulsion that says: What’s yours is mine. I’ll take it. These days bandits tend to wear suits and work for financial systems that exploit the poor with little objection from the rest of us.
- The second, and perhaps more pervasive, compulsion is represented by the priest and the Levite who saw the wounded man but passed by on the other side. They are protecting themselves by not getting involved. Oh, if it had been a family member or friend in the ditch they would have stopped, but for the stranger their compulsion says, What’s mine is mine. I’ll keep it.
- The third compelling attitude is, of course, the rarest. The Samaritan, reviled and despised, saw a neighbor and did not consider what it might cost him to stop to help. The Samaritan didn’t calculate what would most benefit his career or social life. No, his governing compulsion is simply, What’s mine is yours. I’ll give it.
The three attitudes I’ve listed aren’t original with me. Other preachers have used them often, but I’d like to suggest that there is a fourth possible attitude that we might need to consider: What’s yours is yours, but I’ll accept it.
You see, we may not be the bandits, or priests, or Samaritans, but we might be the unnamed victim lying beaten and battered along the road. If that doesn’t describe you now, I suggest you ponder it anyway, because at some time it will.
It was Ernest Hemingway who said, “The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are strong at the broken places.” Life batters us all and those who emerge strong at the broken places are those who are able to admit they need help and accept it.
by Michael Piazza
The Center for Progressive Renewal