“I am sorry you got offended by what I said (or did), but…”
When was the last time you did or said something wrong and then immediately found a way to justify your actions or words? If you are like me, it is not a very long trip into the past to find an example. “I am sorry you got offended by what I said (or did), but…(add your favorite justification).” It is early in the morning as I write this so I haven’t done it yet today. We are actually following in a long line of folks who try to excuse their actions or words. It began with Adam when God confronts him over doing that which was forbidden: “…but it was the woman you gave me that is the one to blame.” Adam not only justified himself but managed to blame God and Eve. Nice try, but you just can’t get one over on God.
In the amazing story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), an expert in the Law asks Jesus what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks him how he reads it and he answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus tells him that he nailed it; “Do this and you will live.”
We are then told that this man wants to justify himself. His heart is not right with God as we find out he is unable to love certain people because of their ethnicity and their religious beliefs. So, he asks the question: “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus knows his prejudice and his bigotry toward the Samaritans. He tells him the story of the Good Samaritan. The priest and the Levite were both people that the expert in the Law would have admired and accepted as being the heroes of the story. But the punch line comes when it is a Samaritan that is the hero. When Jesus asks the man who is the “neighbor” to the injured man, he cannot even use the word “Samaritan” and says: “The one who had mercy on him.”
The main point of this story is to reveal the inability of the man to love his neighbor because of his own dislike for a whole group of people known as Samaritans. Jesus doesn’t tell this man that he needs to become a Samaritan or even agree with their religious practice, but that he needs to love the Samaritans because they are his neighbors. The issue of the religious and ethnic hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans is far removed from us. If we just take race as an example, it becomes obvious: If someone has hatred toward a race of people, the hero would surely be that race of people.
Perhaps the impact of this passage of Holy Scripture can become more relevant to us if we look at the world we live in today. We don’t have to look far to see the tremendous anger and even hatred being expressed by people on various issues. Let’s look at a few examples from today if Jesus were telling this story. Who would be the hero of the story?
If you are a staunch Trump supporter, who would be the hero of the story? It would be a far-left Democrat.
If you are a far-left Democrat, who would be the hero? A staunch Trump supporter.
If you are a person who angrily demands everyone to be vaccinated? It would be an angry anti-vaxxer.
If you are an angry anti-vaxxer? It would be those people angrily demanding everyone be vaccinated.
You get the idea: The hero toward anti-maskers would be those demanding everyone wear masks and vice-versa. One last one for us to consider: Who would the hero on either side be if the issue was sexual preference?
Our society seems to be seething with anger (even hatred) toward those with whom we disagree on certain issues. Instead of loving our neighbor, we mock them, yell them down, or even worse. God doesn’t ask us to become those whom we disagree with, but He does call us to love them. They too are made in the image and likeness of God and they are in every way our neighbor.
Did anyone just say: “I know my social media posts may offend (you name the group), but…(add your favorite justification).” No “buts”… We need to begin to love our neighbor now.