Jesus told the story of the so-called “Good Samaritan.” I was thinking about this story yesterday while mowing a bit of my neighbor’s lawn. (Eric is in the hospital and can’t do it himself right now.)
Before I go further, please understand here that I often have conflicted thoughts about my own faith, its underpinnings, its mores, and its living out. I don’t think I’m essentially a hypocrite, but there are inconsistencies, and I often feel disequilibriant (nice word, huh?) as a result of the presence of God and Christian faith in the milieu of human existence. I don’t often “just kinda feel a peace, ya know?” All this is to say that in no way did I emerge from spending 25 minutes helping my neighbor feeling self-righteous and accomplished in Jesus. On the contrary, I felt kinda stupid for even considering what I was doing to be real service. Truth be told, if I have an hour, I like mowing lawns. This was more “pleasant exercise” than “neighborly grace.”
By the way … back to the disequilibriance in the human sphere … it strikes me that this is what Paul was getting at when writing to the Romans about God’s Spirit’s wordless groaning in tandem with our insufficiency to express, and our crying “Abba, Father,” and our spirits’ yearning together with all creation until redemption is complete (Rom. 8). I think we’re supposed to feel disequilibriated in this life.
On to another neighboring act . . . last week in particular, Karly spent quite a bit of time with Alyn, an emotionally spent friend who’s experienced deep loss recently. Karly was more [“neighborly” seems much too light here, but I’m not sure what word to insert—maybe “supportive”] than I was to the Alcotts in mowing their lawn. I think Karly is exhibiting genuine, Christian lovingkindness in her friendship with Alyn.
Our motivations were pretty good, and I’m comfortable with these basically neighborly actions. But it must not stop here. For my part (I won’t speak for Karly here), it felt like a isolated action that I squeezed in to my busy schedule, not the outgrowth of a life given to sacrificial service in the footsteps of Rabbi Y’shua.
Since I’m back to Jesus in this meandering maelstrom of mutterings, I’d like to close with some queries.
The analysis of narrative is sometimes complex. Personally, I accept that Jesus actually taught about the “Good Samaritan.” But I note that Luke is the only canonical gospel that records this illustrative story. And I note that Luke also records things about needy, “underdog” types. I haven’t really studied Luke before, but if I did, I would ask some things, beyond the common wisdom on treating your “neighbor” well:
- What is Luke saying about Jesus and about His way?
- What did “neighbor” (in Aramaic) mean to Jesus, and what did it mean in Koiné?
- What was He saying to His audience by telling this story?
- Could the story be more about the victim than about the helper?
- What are the implications of the cultural influences present in Jesus’ day?
- What would Jesus say today to convey the same truth?
Answers to questions such as these–and actions based on the answers–would move me toward being a better Christ-ian, following Him on the way.