How to be a Good Samaritan and not be burnt out! Luke 10.25-37

Luke 10.25-37

Jesus tells this story – it is known in English as the Parable of the Good Samaritan – in order that we might ‘Go and do likewise’!

Click here for the audio of the talk

Jesus is clarifying what it means ‘to love your neighbour as yourself’

In the Old Testament the people of Israel are commanded by God to Love Him and put Him first. But they are also commanded to love their neighbour, who is specifically described as the alien and stranger living among them, ‘as yourself’.

In other words, it is a command to love the other person as if they were one of your own, as if they were наши.

Elsewhere, Jesus teaches that we are ‘to do to others as you would have them do to you’. (Matthew 7.12).

And here, Jesus tells us the story of the Good Samaritan and tells us to ‘go and do likewise’

It is a story of a person in very obvious, clear need. He has been beaten-up and he is almost dead.

But, and I found this very helpful, it is the Good Samaritan who comes across the man who is beaten up.
It is not the beaten-up man who comes to the Good Samaritan asking for help.

As a Christian minister, I have many people coming to me and asking for help. They assume that because I am a minister then I will help them.

The problem is that there are too many people who come for help, and I do not have the time or resources or the energy to help all who come.

And that means that two things happen.
Either I become hard and cold.
Or I read the story of the Good Samaritan and think that I should be doing something for everyone, and am driven by guilt, and end up exhausted and crushed. I have seen ministries destroyed because people felt that they had to meet every need that comes to them.

But I notice that Jesus did not meet every person who came in need to him. On one occasion he had been healing people, and a huge crowd had turned up asking for healing. And Jesus says to his disciples, ‘No. I have got to go on to other towns and to preach there – because that is why I have come’.

The Good Samaritan is not a story for someone in what we call ‘a caring profession’, to say to them that they have to help everyone in need who comes to them.

Rather it is a story for all of us about how we should behave to people, to strangers, who we happen to meet in our everyday life – not who come to us, but who we come across where there is a very obvious need.

I remember with great shame one occasion when I was called to be a good Samaritan. I was coming out of my church in London and I saw a young man start to beat up an older man who was sitting on a park bench and who was the worse for wear for drink. I know what the Good Samaritan would have done. But I went back into the church. Locked the door and at a safe distance called the police.

So what is Jesus calling us to do?

1. He is calling us to see the person in need as a person like myself.

I’m not talking about physical seeing.
The Priest and Levite saw the man in need.
We know that, because they ‘passed by on the other side’. They deliberately went out of their way to avoid him.

They saw him, but they did not really see him, see him as a person.
They saw him as a problem, an inconvenience, maybe as a decoy, maybe as someone who deserved what he had got. They saw him as something to be avoided.
They did not see him as a person, they did not see him ‘as themselves’

But the Samaritan saw the man beaten up – and he saw a person. He saw someone who was like him.
That was remarkable. Because the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other, and the man who was beaten up was almost certainly a Jew.
The Samaritan could easily have seen this Jew as someone who he despised, as an enemy – and walked by on the other side.
But he did not. He saw him as a person. And he loved him as himself.

We need to pray that God, in his love for us, will help us to see other people who we come across who are in need, not just as problems, or as strangers for whom we have no responsibility, or as potential enemies, but as ‘like us’.

We need to pray that we can see beyond the things that divide us, the walls that we build up: between male and female, black and white, Christian and Moslem, Russian and Western, Jew and Gentile, ‘cultured’ and ‘non-cultured’; so that we see the other, especially the other in need, as a person who is like me.

We need to pray that God will help us to see the other person as someone who was created in the image and likeness of God, that somewhere deep within her or him there is the image of Christ, that – in one sense – we are all children of God, and – in another deeper sense - we can all potentially become members of the same eternal family, with a heavenly Father, calling each other our brother and sister.

2. He is calling us to have compassion, pity

The word used in this story for showing pity is a big word
The root of the verb is the Greek word ‘splagkhnon’, and it means the chief intestine, your guts.
It means to be emotionally moved, in your guts, by pity or compassion.

It is the word used to describe how Jesus felt when he saw the crowds who were, he said, ‘harrassed and helpless like lost sheep without a shepherd’
It is the word used to describe how Jesus felt when he saw a widow standing beside the coffin of her only dead son.

Do you know, Love of neighbour is not simply a dry, sense of duty, kind of love.

It can come from here (our head)– but at least a tiny spark has to come from here (our guts).

If what we do for others is always out of a sense of duty, or guilt, or is motivated by what others think of us, or by what we think a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl’ is – then our service of others will become resentful and grudging. We will again cease to treat them ‘as ourselves’ and simply as a case.

It was very hard for my father when he was in hospital, and seriously ill with multiple conditions. Nobody could really do anything. The staff did their best, but they were overwhelmed by the need on the hospital ward, by fear of making mistakes, and by lack of time; these were good people, but the only way that they could survive was not to treat my father as an individual, but as a case.

It is very easy to become cold and hard and to be overwhelmed by the problems that we see around us. If we are doing this from our own resources, we will quickly suffer from what is called compassion fatigue.

And the danger – and we see it so often in people who give of themselves so much – is that if we are not driven by a divine compassion, by a divine love, then we will either end up doing things that we should not be doing (it is OK to say ‘no’, even if they won’t like you when you say ‘no’), or we will end up exhausted and weary. We will suffer from what is called compassion fatigue, and we will either give up or crash.

So where does that compassion, that love come from?

It is very important to remember that the first commandment is the command to love God – and then to love our neighbour.

It is only when we put God first, come to him, receive his love for us, and ask him to fill us with his love for the people he has created, that we can begin to love others as we are called to do so.
That is why it is so important – if we are to love with compassion – that we first spend time with God.

3. He is calling us to lift the other person up.

The Good Samaritan goes to the beaten-up man, bandages his wounds, pours oil and wine on the wounds -as a sort of antiseptic – puts him on a donkey and takes him to an inn, a safe place, where he pays for him.

It is costly love: it involves an element of risk (the Samaritan did not know if the robbers were still in the region – the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notorious); it meant he had to change his immediate plans – perhaps he was looking forward to getting home, to being with his family, putting his feet up – but all that had to change. And it cost him effort and time and money.

And we see how his love is focussed on the need of the other: he is not doing anything here to get something for himself. It is about bringing healing and restoration to the other.

Love is practical. It lifts up the person who is in need.

It is about defending the weak and the vulnerable, about giving a drink to the person who is thirsty, clothing the naked (that would be my vision for our lavochka), feeding the hungry, visiting the person in prison, caring for the sick, welcoming the stranger

Jesus gives us the example of the Good Samaritan and tells us to go and do likewise.
But of course, Jesus is himself the greatest example of what it means to love

And we, you and me, are the greatest examples of what it means to be loved.

Many of the earliest Christian thinkers and preachers saw the parable of the good Samaritan as a picture of what Jesus has done for us.

I came across this remarkable icon of the Good Samaritan (Michael Kapeluck)



It tells the story:
1. The man beaten up
2. The Levite and Priest
3. The anointing and bandaging
4. The Good Samaritan talking with the inn keeper.

But there are a few changes

The robbers are demons.
The man being beaten up is Adam, you and me: the demons have lied to us, captured us, stripped us of our dignity, made us slaves of sin and death
The priest and Levites, who represent the old religion of law, walk by on the other side.
The figure who rescues the man is Christ (halo, for those familiar with the resurrection icon, you will see parallels to how Christ lifts up the man who is almost dead) 

But the most obvious change comes in the centre
The story tells us that the Samaritan places the beaten-up man on the donkey
The icon has Christ carrying us on his back
Indeed, more than that. The way that the man hanging means that he and Christ are completely identified and that his beaten back becomes Christ’s back.

He saw us in our need, he had compassion on us (Psalm 25: the theme of God’s steadfast love and mercy weave their way through this psalm), and he came to us – and at great cost to himself, at the cost of nails through his hands, and stripes on his back – he lifted us up.

And so, as people who have received the love of Christ, who have been raised up by him, so we are called ‘to go and do likewise’.

One final point.

Jesus does not exactly answer the lawyer’s questions
The lawyer asks, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Jesus tells him ‘’Do this and you will live” (not just future, but present)

The lawyer asks, ‘Who is my neighbour?’
Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan and then asks him, “Who became a neighbour to the beaten-up man”?
It is not about who is my neighbour, but who can become a neighbour to me. 

In other words, when we do choose to step out ‘and do likewise’ to someone who we come across in need

- We gain a neighbour
- And we begin to live

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