Jesus had a way with stories to cause us to think. In this familiar passage of the Good Samaritan he wanted the pious lawyer to think outside the box and he wanted to describe true compassion. Samaritans were like another denomination for Jews in the first century. They often mingled in business and travel but were not liked very much for their looser view according to many rabbis. Associating good and Samaritan was unusual a bit like saying to us the Good drug dealer or the Good local polluter or the good enemy.
Often in Jesus day, like our day, the definition of neighbour was limited to actual neighbours living nearby who we have helped and they have helped us and so love your neighbour as yourself was not particularly hard if you held this limited view. This story lacks telling us who the man who was robbed, was, we assume he was a Jewish man but perhaps a Roman. The hearers would probably assume he was one of them. I once visited in the hospital a young paraplegic man who had been thrown in a ditch and badly treated by others. He came to the hospital for care and they tried to get him to respond to them I took picture books from the family and would sit with him. He began to converse about his life and sometimes he would say I want to die followed by don’t treat me like a child. He was seen by the staff as depressed but I told them that he was afraid and wanted to be seen as an adult. As a chaplain it was a tough job but the day he was sent to a more permanent institution for care we both were teary.
Most of us do not know what it is to but left on the road to die after being robbed and thrown into a ditch but we can imagine the victim to be very sad and hurting a lot. You can also imagine since many of those on the road were walking they should have seen him but they either were busy with something else or didn’t want to get involved. The priest and the Levite who should have known about compassion passed him by. As Paul says you know yourself by your fruits what you show to other people as well.
So along comes this Samaritan with an animal, likely some business man, and sees this poor man and was moved with pity, moved with compassion. He rushes over and binds his wounds, comforts him and puts him on his animal takes him to an inn to recover and pays the innkeeper with a promise to come back and cover extra expenses. This indeed was the neighbour friend or foe it mattered little. The first step is having compassion, suffering with literally, who spurs to action to help.
Showing mercy is a sign of our responsibility to our neighbours and us.
Developing our compassion and empathy is the way Jesus saw the way into care for others, this is the gift that has much fruit. And we have seen it here in our congregation as we do much care for the neighbours in need and more we seek the ways to make sure people are cared for by the city and province that they have housing and decent pension and welfare rates. Our true test of compassion is how we can avoid setting it aside in the social sense and restrict it to the personal examples. In our society many of the issues are social the plight of our indigenous neighbours and can best be dealt with by political will to understand what they need and to work with the community to make that happen. We all know now that bullying is more hurtful that we realize and how our compassion comes late after the death of teenagers. We cannot keep separating things we need our compassion to happen as we feel pity as I know we all do. We are not weak feeling sorry or feeling sad over others troubles. We are human beings with a lot of room to love ourselves and others.
Sometimes compassion can weary us or elude us but it is the stuff of faith the first fruit of the Christian life.
Let us find new ways together to advocate for suffering others and let us keep our personal pity for ourselves others highly tuned through prayer and through looking after ourselves.
Loving and God we pray for wisdom and the love that makes us more fully human and caring. We ask this in the name of Jesus our Saviour Amen