And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
We’ve all read this story before and I think most of us would say that we are like the Samaritan. But I heard this quote a while ago that sums up this parable perfectly. Love isn’t clean. Love isn’t just clicking “like” on Facebook or telling someone “I’m here for you” when in reality you’re nowhere near there for them. Love is dirty and messy and hard. Growing up, I would read this story and always thought that the priest and the Levites were bad people. Then a sobering thought hit me, what if I’m the priest and the Levite? I’d like to think that if I came across someone who’d been left for dead on the side of the road I’d jump in and help. But how many times have I walked past the homeless person at the train station and looked the other way? How many times have I driven past someone broken down on the side of the road? How many times have I seen a friend in need, told them “if there’s anything I can do let me know” and then done absolutely nothing for them?
The more I thought about those things the more I came to feel that maybe the priest and the Levite were just like us. They were probably good people who did good things but when the time came to step out of their comfort zone and do a little extra they were found wanting. I’m sure the priest and the Levite felt sorry for this poor man but whatever good intentions they may have had went to the other side of the road with them.
But the Samaritan got dirty. While everyone else was walking on the other side of the road thinking “that’s really sad, I hope someone helps him”, the Samaritan actually helped him! He helped this guy up, cleaned him up and put him up. He didn’t just pay lip service, he gave time, energy and money to help a stranger.
So, what does this mean for us? While I don’t think any of us are being called to hand over sums of money to strangers, I think we are being called to step up more and really show the world God’s love. Even if we just start small with the people in our circles, our friends, work colleagues and fellow church members. For some that may only be a phone call or a talk over coffee. For others that may be a meal or financial assistance. For others still that could mean supporting them and their family as they deal with a health issue. Then as you increase in these areas, look to help the stranger who desperately needs God’s love. Everywhere we look there is desperate need in the world with no shortage of opportunities to help others.
Let’s make 2017 our year of loving dirty. This year, make that phone call, make that visit, make that meal. Make someone’s life a little better by shining God’s light and love on them. Let’s do the things that may take us out of our comfort zone but may be exactly what is needed for someone at that time. At the end of the year, there may be a lot of dirty and bruised people in church but the world will be a little brighter and filled with more of God’s love.