Compassion can seem in short supply, especially as we move through an intense political campaign season where we hear far more biting attacks than civility or compassion nowadays. One of Jesus’ most well-known parables is The Good Samaritan, a story about unexpected kindness and mercy coming from an unlikely source. Samaritans and Jews did not get along well; it was a conflicted relationship that went back hundreds of years. For the Jews, the holiest place of worship was the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans had their own holy mountain. They each used different scriptures. On at least one occasion, Jesus enters a Samaritan village where they don’t want him to stay. In Jesus’ Jewish culture, to call someone a Samaritan would almost be like a racial slur. So when Jesus is asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” he tells this parable in response, reminding us our neighbor is the person in need before us, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like. Jesus also reminds us that compassion can show up in people and places where we would not necessarily expect it.
We also live in a world where we are more cautious than ever or even suspicious about people in need. We can hardly avoid the images of places and people who are suffering — they are so prevalent! I think the fear in us of the stranger is real these days, and while we learn to be careful, we always want our faith to be known and seen. God loves without limits and always invites us to do the same. This parable strikes me as another call to live out our mission and vision: to be God’s love in action in the ways we respond and care. We want to practice and share that generous love of God that crosses all barriers and embraces all people. It is a challenge to be sure. Yet God is always at work in us when we are asked to live a faith that risks of love. Sunday we worship God who offers us eternal life and love. And we come to experience that lasting and unending love in the here and now as we share what God has given to us.
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