One of the more famous stories of the Bible is one Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. It’s a story that appeals to a basic human situation where one man has experienced great injustice through robbery and beating and been left for dead. But this man also happens to be far from home and away from ‘his people’. This story becomes essentially a test of our ability to move past the divisions we all are prone to falling into in hopes of meeting the needs of our neighbors.
The scholar to whom Jesus was speaking was looking for exceptions and excuses to not love those he encountered and Jesus made it as awkward as possible for him, to reveal the intent in his heart. The truth is, we all create boundaries on how we show love and to whom we show it. We learn this very early in life when love isn’t validated from a crush, we experience wounds from trusted family, or we build a wall of who we are willing to be associated with in this life.
When we were first embarking together on our journey as a foster family, we were constantly impressed at how freely our children gave love away to these total strangers we had brought into our lives. And immediately after a placement ended, they were willing to jump in again. I realized they had not yet learned to withhold love. What a beautiful lesson to us, as parents, as they let their hearts respond as they were led without the fear of more heartbreak.
Boundaries are useful, they protect us. They are especially helpful to avoid abuse and unhealth that could hurt us in deep ways. But many of our boundaries are developed without much conscious awareness. Some boundaries that are most prevalent and damaging in our society today are built around race, economics, or politics. The religious scholar revealed similar biases toward the Samaritan in the story.
Recently, our society has been torn apart through culture war, forcing individuals to chose what side of a given debate they fall on. This situation is parallel to the Samaritan situation Jesus calls out. He is asking, “Can you cross the invisible cultural lines to love someone in need?”
Lately we have been faced in our own community with our ability to respond in love to those in need around us. Whether it is in our ability to affirm the value of our black neighbors by standing up to say yes, black lives do matter, or in our ability to show support to local law enforcement when a rookie officer is tragically killed in the line of duty. Expressing love in one of these situations could feel like crossing enemy lines to some in this cultural moment.
Jesus asks us to check our heart when faced with a chance to show love to those in need. Do we dare let down our guard, cross invisible lines, and make ourselves vulnerable to heartbreak and attack? Do we, like the Levite in Jesus’ story, cross the street to avoid getting involved, or will we allow our hearts to be broken and connect to those in need, whatever their situation may be?
Let’s commit to loving freely, to be agents of how God is reaching out and seeking to save those who are calling out for help. Give love away and expect that God will use it for His purposes even if it means risking reputation, ideology, or getting dirty like the Good Samaritan.
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