I will do my best to not justify my actions but I will say what I did (or actually didn’t do) has haunted me since.  You can judge me (if you are so bold) though I have a feeling you have your own “Not a Good Samaritan” story.  Let me first start out with the original Good Samaritan.

Basically (if you don’t know the story), it goes like this: A man who was wanting to justify his actions regarding the command of: “Love your neighbor as yourself”, asked Jesus the question, “Who is my neighbor?”.  Jesus replied with a story about a Jewish man who was beat up by bandits.  Two religious people passed by the man without helping him.  Finally a despised Samaritan man came by, took pity on him, bandaged his wounds and took him to an inn, paying all the fees.  The Samaritan acted as a “neighbor” to the man.  (Luke 10)

I kind of read the story though as this:  Some people who called themselves Christians were in a really big hurry half-noticed a dying man and since they didn’t want to get their hands dirty (the man had been beat up before and he deserved it too!), they hurried about their business.  Finally a real Christian (who didn’t know the man deserved it) with tons of time and tons of money walked by and since he had nothing better to do (it was a really slow lazy Saturday), he helped out a dude who had been robbed and beaten.

But I wonder if it could have been told like this: It was Valentine’s Day. Everyone was hurrying to catch the bus after work (with their hands full of flowers and groceries) to make it home in time to cook dinner for the special evening.  Cars slowly moved and the sidewalks were full.  It was about 30 degrees outside.  One man, about 20 years old, was a heroin addict (as evidenced by his reddish puffy hands) and obviously got a good hit because he looked half dead as he half sat on the side walk and some stairs.  He was slumped over and not moving.  A hard-working tired Christian nurse, who was on the phone to her mom, almost tripped over the man.  She glanced at him, trying to see if he was alive, but didn’t want to miss her bus so kept walking.  As she told her mom what was she had seen, her mom started to cry with compassion.  The nurse was use to scenarios like this and didn’t feel like getting involved (her name wasn’t Mother Teresa anyways-ouch!).  As she waited for the bus a half block away, still chatting with her mom (with her hands full of groceries), she silently prayed God would send someone to help the man.  Tons of people passed him on the sidewalk.  A “Downtown Ambassador” on a bicycle passed by the nurse and she prayed, “God, let him see the man and help him!”  The Downtown Ambassador did see the man and within 3 minutes had a fire truck at the scene.  Who was a neighbor to the man?  A paid employee of the city, not a Christian nurse.  

Now, granted, when you work downtown, you see lots of people sleeping on the sidewalk-you see drug deals-you see crazy yelling people-you see lots of things you don’t want to see.  And you turn away.  It’s none of your business.  And what do I have to offer?

I’m not going to give them money (because they will use it on drugs) though I have taken hungry people to lunch before.  The church I attend downtown is closed except for Wednesday night and Sunday.  I can point in the general direction of the Union Gospel Mission but don’t know the exact address.  I can tell them about Jesus but telling someone the Gospel should go hand-in-hand with helping them with their obvious practical need (food, shelter, clothing)-just my personal opinion and as Steve Camp once sang, “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them, til you’re ready to love them too”.

Sometimes I think about the verse: Proverbs 26:17-He who, passing by, stops to meddle with strife that is none of his business is like one who takes a dog by his ears.

There is a time and a place to not interfere for sure but then again,  there is a time to get involved.

Here’s the deal:  I can justify my actions.  I can tell you all the times I was a Good Samaritan.  I can tell you the things I’ve given away to those in need.  I can tell you about the people I have spent time with, telling them about the grace of God.

Maybe the religious people in Jesus’ story had been “Good Samaritans” the day before but not this day.  Can you pick and choose when you have the time and energy to be a “Good Samaritan”?  Can you pick when you want to help someone?  Do we get to choose?  Only when it’s convenient, only when I have nothing else to do, only when I’m not on my way somewhere, only when a certain person is watching, only when it will make a good story, then I will take time to help someone in need, and the person I help better actually deserve it!

They better not smell bad, better not have annoying druggy friends, better not ask for too much, better only need me for 30 minutes, better not call at midnight asking for help. And whatever I do, it better be enough for them.  They better get right on the good path, clean up their act within 2 weeks and never have another problem again or just disappear from my life so I don’t have to be reminded that there is a lot of pain in the world.  They better be fixed.  And God help them if they need me to do more than 5 “Good Samaritan” acts in one week.

When we truly see the root of our actions: the selfishness, the pride, the arrogance, the lust, the stinginess, the hatred-we no longer have a leg to stand on when it comes to defending ourselves.

Actually, I am a double-amputee who by the grace of God was given the legs of Jesus and those legs are fast to help those in need.  I don’t know if that makes any sense but for some reason I like it.

The ground is truly level at the foot of the cross because the roots of all the sins are the same (selfishness, pride, greed, lust, etc).  We have all failed miserably at being pure hearted, pure minded, purely motivated.  But there is a God who is patient and kind and His kindness leads us to repentance.

He is not only the God of 2nd chances.

He’s the God of 3rd chances, 4th chances, 50th chances, 10000th chances (you get the picture).