Well, we all know the story:
– Man is mugged and left on the side of the road
– Two upstanding citizens and church leaders ignore him or cross the road so they don’t have to deal with him
– A Samaritan comes along and saves his life
It’s a great story. The part that can say something to us today, I believe, is that “Samaritan” part.
The Jews hated the Samaritans. They considered them a heretical group that had turned its back on the true religion and were worshipping the wrong way in the wrong place. As far as the Jews were concerned, the Samaritans had taken the true faith given to them by God and twisted and subverted it. They had abandoned the faith and the nation, and the Jews felt absolutely justified in their hatred and their judgment.
And Jesus? Well, not so much …
Jesus knew the Scriptures and preached them in a way they weren’t normally preached – with a strong focus on love, compassion, forgiveness – both God’s and ours.
Jesus was a Jew, and a good Jew. He was a Jew who knew exactly what laws and rules and regulations came from God, and which ones were imposed by the church (no healing on the Sabbath, socializing with sinners, picking grain when you’re hungry on the Sabbath, etc.)
He was also very, very clear that no one of us ever has the right to judge another. He was very, very clear that judgment belonged to God, who alone is Creator and Judge. He was clear that judging others was an infringement on God’s prerogatives and that God didn’t care for that at all.
What brought this to mind is simply this: on a recent First Friday, a gentleman came up to me and handed me a Bible tract that asked which Gospel I was reading. The tract went on to describe some common points of disagreement among religious groups. There was nothing startling or new about the tract. But I was especially struck by its title: “Which Gospel are you reading?” when this gentleman went on to tell me that all Democrats are dogs, and we have to drive them out.
I’m pretty sure I know which Gospel I’m reading, and the one I’m reading tells me that I am to love my enemies. Now I take that to mean I am to love those with whom I disagree dogmatically, politically, theologically, or in any other way.
So I smiled at the gentleman and said: “Democrats aren’t dogs. They’re children of God.”
I happen to believe that’s true of everyone – because if God is Creator of everything that exists, then we are all children together under one roof, even and maybe especially the gentleman with the Bible tracts.
I got that idea from the Gospel. I surely hope I’m reading the right one …
The Rev’d. Dr. Lynn D. Sinnott is from Christ Episcopal Church in Xenia and a guest columnist.