Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The good compromised, traitor, heretic

Was just thinking about the story of the good Samaritan. If you haven't heard the story before:

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'[c]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[d]"

28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Now, the reason I have thought about this story a bit more deeply, is I was reminded of the social context in which this story is told. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews. They had sold out their faith. They were traitors to Jerusalem. They had intermarried with non Jews and were half caste. They were despised.

But beyond this they were heretics, they had not only compromised the faith, but had distorted it. We must remember that to a Jewish person, there is only One. And in the midst of a culture that worshiped all manners of gods, they were told of the one, true God. This God revealed Himself to the Jewish people, as the ONE. The one God over all of life. And through their history, revealed Himself in the temple, or the tabernacle. Though they were called to serve God, to live righteously, to do justice, and have mercy. There is only one place that worship, and sacrifice can be done! the temple. Infact all Jews would come to Jerusalem to worship three times a year. They would have discussion in the synagogues, and read, and sing, but only one place could worship happen, the abode of the Almighty, the temple.

These Samaritans, in an age of spiritism said that God could be worshipped in the high places. The same places pagans worshipped demons. These were truly the lowest of the low.

And when we see this, if we can grasp it, we see that Jesus meant not only to tell us to help others. But we must see that Jesus stood in the face of all social convention, and loudly proclaimed that those that see the spirituality of service, and sacrifice, are closer to the kingdom of God, than those with correct doctrine, correct church, and correct lineage. Jesus, this radical revolutionary servant leader, calls us to a greater thing than religion. He calls us to love til it hurts.

That is someone I can follow.

the rev

13 comments:

Jon Owen said...

Now, I don't want to give up on religion so fast, but it so easily gets obsessed with the fingers rather than the fact that those fingers are pointing at the moon. I like this lesson from Jesus, and I don't. It means I can never get hung up on forms, no matter how much I love 'em!

Kieren Green said...

Tell me, Rev, can atheists demonstrate the same compassion for others as demonstrated in this parable?

The Rev said...

ofcourse they can.

The question is can you?

the rev

Kieren Green said...

Sometimes.

Jesus used an example of a person obviously in need of help. The question I ask is what sort of heartlessness made the first two men cross the road and ignore the distressed stranger. Didn't they have mobile phones to call an ambulance? Isn't it easy to feel compassion for people in desparate need, especially if they cross our path (or we cross their path).

But there are so many people in need around the world. I think we learn to tune our minds out to the enormity of the task, especially if we don't live in the same neighbourhood as the unfortunate. Unless we choose to, like you, Rev, because we want to help them.

Possibly boring, middle-class, office-workers like me can only have small, unremarkable opportunities for compassion - compassion that's hardly worth doing.

What do you think, Rev?

The Rev said...

I think we all have opportunities to show compassion. Kieren, I am sure when it really is needed you will step up and come through. But I also believe its the little insignificant acts of kindness that give us practice, so when the big one comes, we are ready.

the rev

Danioel said...

I belive that the reason that the other two passed by without helping the man was not a matter of heartlessness per say, but rather a matter of obedience.

If any good Torah believing Jew touched the man who had been beaten, they would be ceremonially unclean (as seen in the OT, uncleanliness is contagious), and as a result not be able to enter the temple to worship.

It took Jesus to point out the true nature of worship and he used a story of a heretical samaritan to do so.

Keith Lowell Jensen said...

Interesting conversation. I was talking with a Pastor recently and he told me that before he became a Christian he'd step over a man dying on the street before he'd stop to help. I thought that was pretty sad that he was, well, insane, before finding God. I think through social contract, and non-short sited self interest, what I've heard called enlightened self interest and atheist can find a pretty solid moral code that isn't all that different from the morals our religious friends live by.

Kieren Green said...

Are principles morally right in themselves or because God says so?

The Rev said...

both

Kieren Green said...

Do you mean there are no moral principles that can exist apart from God?

Or if there are separate moral principles, God can choose to break them or add to them but he is by definition always behaving morally?

Or is morality whatever God says it is - this is a bit like "might is right".

The Rev said...

Do you mean there are no moral principles that can exist apart from God?

Well if you don't believe in God, then you can come up with your own moral system. But if you do believe in God, then morals will be both right because God says so, and God says they are right because they are right

Or if there are separate moral principles, God can choose to break them or add to them but he is by definition always behaving morally?

I think on some levels God transcends our concept of morality. I would say He always behaves morally, if there appears to be a disparity between revealed morality and God's actions there is a concept of transcendence.

Or is morality whatever God says it is - this is a bit like "might is right".

No I do not believe this

Anonymous said...

"I belive that the reason that the other two passed by without helping the man was not a matter of heartlessness per say, but rather a matter of obedience."

Interesting that obedience won out over compassion. That they passed by on the other side indicates some conflictual process was going on inside their heads, if only briefly, otherwise why not walk on proudly by on the same side of the road. You would think this would put some doubt as in their minds as to the validity of their belief systems. On further reflection, though, I am still not convinced that anyone could have such a simple-minded or closed-minded attitude to obvious need. I don't know anyone in real life who would behave like this (apart from fundamentalist christians).

halieus said...

Hi Rev,

I like your blog, and your faith.

Anonymous said: "...I am still not convinced that anyone could have such a simple-minded or closed-minded attitude to obvious need"

What an unusual thought. Not that long ago i was at the bus station where an aboriginal girl with no money was stranded and had been pleading for a lift home and dozens had turned her down. Obvious need?

Every day thousands of shoppers walk past homeless people and don't give as much as a loaf of bread. Some cross to the other side to avoid them. Obvious need?


How many Gay men have been bashed and robbed and left for dead over the years in Sydney's Darlinghurst alone, if it's anything like it used to be when I worked in the cross years ago.

When derelicts are bashed they can lay in the street while busy people make there way past.

Many people rejoice when their perceived enemies are injured. "They probably deserved it" is a common excuse for with-holding compassion. Another is "I don't want to get involved". It could be argued that both have their root in fear. Sometimes we need to overcome fear to show love.