We see colors when light refracts. That's God's design.
He designed us in His image. How many colors do we see when we look at each other?
Jesus chose a Samaritan as the good neighbor, and He spoke with a Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus was a Jew and Jews didn't like Samaritans, yet when He healed 10 lepers, only a Samaritan cared enough to thank Him. The other 9 were Jews. It's easy to develop biases and prejudices as we walk through life. Jesus and the Samaritan leper reached beyond the trending prejudice in favor of healing, honor, and gratitude. And the Good Samaritan offered neighborly love instead of prejudice.
What biases do we have? What do we tend to believe about…
Children. Persons with Special Needs.
Parents. Grandparents. In-Laws. School Teachers.
Daycare Teachers. Children's Ministry Workers. Veterans.
Incarcerated Persons. Residents of Assisted Living Facilities.
Government Workers. Police. Professional Athletes.
Celebrities. Pastors. Missionaries. Bloggers.
How about prejudices? What people groups do we dislike or even hate?
What nations and ethnicities? What political parties? What organizations?
Those who dress differently? Those who speak differently? Those who drive certain vehicles?
Speaking of vehicles, someone dear to me stopped attending church because a guest speaker spoke badly about people with nice cars, and, in so doing, he spoke badly about my dear one. I did something similar. One day a friend stood next to her vehicle, and, in my bias, I unwittingly joked about the manufacturer. It came out all too naturally, and then I realized how offensive I'd been.
That was a game changer for me
and I began to pay attention to my idle statements,
realizing they actually matter to people and can twist painfully in their hearts.
Blanket, idle statements among friends could be unacceptable to others. Very unacceptable. And our jokes. Do they target certain people? I represent multiple people groups. (We probably all do.) As the years passed, I grew used to insensitive, often overtly offensive, remarks. I even laughed at some of them. But we should never grow comfortable with stereotypes and derogatory phrases because they truly are offensive.
God created one human race in His image (Genesis 1:26-27)
How were Jesus and the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) able to put bias and prejudice aside?
What makes them good or truly, loving neighbors?
Here's what I read between the lines:
They looked at people long enough to recognize their needs.
The Good Samaritan didn't just look away. He saw a man in need and maybe put himself in his shoes. (Putting ourselves in the shoes of others helps us understand them better.)
When Jesus looked at people, He looked deep into their eyes – so deep that He connected with their hearts. He looked from the cross and said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). He felt Mary's sorrow and said to John, "Here is your mother" (John 19:26-27). He looked into the heart of the Samaritan woman at the well and offered, "I am he," the Messiah for whom she waited in her brokenness (John 4:25-26).
In Christ, we are all the same – all descendants and heirs of Abraham (Galatians 3:28-29). Jesus broke down the walls of hostility and made us one body, one humanity, one family (Ephesians 2:14-19). We're all neighbors.
And those outside of Christ
Maybe we don't look long enough because it doesn't serve our preferences; it doesn't serve our biases and prejudices.
Think about James 1:26-27:
Those who consider themselves religious and yet
do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves,
and their religion is worthless.
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked which of the three men was a neighbor to the man in need. The expert in the law, a Jew, answered, "the one who had mercy on him." When we show mercy, we might feel like we're the better person. The Jew didn't call the neighborly person a Samaritan. His prejudice couldn't acknowledge that a Samaritan did something good.
Last week, I noticed a woman examining her flat tire. I was already out of the parking lot and to drive back was complicated. (I know this because I've tried it before.) So, I planned to help her after stopping for gas along the complex route back to the lot. But when I returned, I saw her slip back into her car and drive away. I couldn't have been gone for more than 5 minutes and I was impressed. Then I realized my bias. I assumed she would struggle with the wheel-changing process. The reality is, she was probably better at it than I was.
If we are good neighbors, we show mercy because God showed us mercy. We don't do it because we're better than others.
We show mercy because of how much we undeservedly received from God.
I hope we make some adjustments, eliminate some biases, and eradicate some prejudices. I hope we recognize needs and respond with mercy. Mercy out of gratitude for all God has done for us.
Some go out of their way, even risk their lives to help others; stand up for underdogs; serve at homeless shelters; care for orphans, and even adopt them; provide aid and sometimes a home for those displaced by wildfires.
We call them Good Samaritans.
We can use a few more Good Samaritans who also live the love of Christ.