The Good Samaritan
The story of the Good Samaritan is probably one of the best known stories told by Jesus; but I want to tell you another story which I hope will help us look again at some of the deeper teachings which this parable contains.
Tom and Mavis were a retired couple who lived in a large block of flats in the middle of an estate which contained a lot of difficult and anti -social youngsters. They were both in their seventies and despite the fact that they were not very well off they were very happy.
They’d been married for over 50 years, and it would be true to say that they lived for each other. They were decent people and they’d both been brought up in a tradition which had taught them to treat other people as they themselves would want to be treated
Many of the youngsters on the estate took drugs, and were prepared to steal and cheat in order to get the money which they needed to support their habit They also seemed to take delight in being rude and offensive to older people, and for some reason they’d made a special target of Tom and Mavis.
It was about 6 o’clock one Saturday evening in late November, when four of them carried out the mugging in the stairwell. They snatched Mavis’s handbag, and in the scuffle which followed Tom was stabbed. He died of his injuries early the next morning.
Mavis was devastated, and life seemed to be barely worth living. But she managed to give evidence at the trial, and very slowly she began to cope again. Two years passed before she really began to pick up the pieces ,and then, almost three years to the day that Tom had died she once more found herself in the dark stair way where she’d been mugged.
She heard the groans before she saw the broken body of the lad who’d been kicked and beaten by his so- called “friends”. And in the dim light she recognised him as one of the hangers on to the group which had destroyed her life.
Although not directly responsible, he’d been there alright. And yet she didn’t hesitate. Perhaps it was because she’d trained and worked as a nurse , but there could be little doubt that her prompt action saved the young man’s life.
When she spoke of the incident afterwards she admitted that although she recognised the boy and felt the hatred and the fear which his presence brought, there was something else within her which somehow just took over the whole situation.
For most of her life she’d practised caring for men and women who were ill or damaged, or in pain. Some of them were lovely people, but some of them had been very difficult indeed. However, it soon became second nature for her to care for everyone in need who came her way.
Now, I know that this story is only a poor substitute for one small part of the magnificent parable of the Good Samaritan, and that it also reverses one or two roles. But I hope it brings out one of the points which Jesus was making.
My neighbour may well be someone I don’t find easy to get on with, or I may be prejudiced against him or her for some reason. But if that is the case, then I have to learn to go out of my way to care for that person.
Christian love means being willing to understand other people; to listen to their needs and to care for them in practical ways. We don’t choose the neighbours in the street where we live and we can’t choose whom we will and won’t serve. What we do choose is to allow God to show us who we are to serve.
This means giving hospitality to those who can’t return it; speaking to those who hold a grudge against us ,and perhaps hardest of all, loving those who hate us.
Well, this will often go against the grain. Most of us feel that we have a right to nurse grievances, to take our revenge and to keep hold of our prejudices. So to become a good neighbour in the sense that Jesus talked about will be hard work. When we find it impossibly hard, as we sometimes will, then we need to come to the Lord, confess our weaknesses and ask him to change our attitude.
For you see, it’s not by doing good deeds out of a sense of duty, it’s when we do them as a spontaneous act of love that we most closely follow the example of Christ.
But when the heart is cold and our first instinct is to pass by, our will can make us turn around to do what we would rather ignore. And these acts of will, when they are often repeated, will lead at last to true acts of love.
This happened for Mavis. It can happen for us too.