By Vicki Penwell, CPM, MSM
“‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.” –Luke 10:36-37 (NIV)
The story of the good Samaritan is familiar to most of us. Like the travelers on the road, we too are challenged to respond when we see a neighbor in need. But we may ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I believe God wants to show this parable to us in a new light, and to challenge us with an understanding of modern-day applications.
We are living in a time when satellite television, jumbo jets, and computer networks bring the once-distant world to our doorstep. We can turn on the news in our living rooms and watch as people of different nations and diverse cultures play out their daily dramas for all the world to see. We can fly off and in a few hours land on the other side of the globe.
How do we respond when we find ourselves facing a world overwhelmed with wars, poverty, drought and famines, ethnic hatred, genocide, and moral collapse? How did Jesus respond to human suffering?
The story of the good Samaritan is a picture of mercy. Jesus is saying to us, This is my Father’s heart-go and do likewise. 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 then go and love your world neighbor as yourself, with God’s love, with God’s mercy.
The Samaritan was drawn to the side of the beaten traveler by God-given compassion, not by any hope of personal or monetary gain. He was not motivated by a need for gratitude or earthly recognition. He gave what time, skills, resources, and money he had, to bring about healing and recovery for a man he didn’t know.
Jesus said go and do likewise. To be rescuers we have to go looking for the hurting with our eyes open, and not shrink from the darker side of the road. We have to be where the poor are. My friend Raquel has been all over the world on mission trips using primary health care to serve the poor. She has been in Thailand, the Philippine Islands, Jamaica, and on the Amazon river in Brazil. Once somebody asked her why she went to the most beautiful and exotic places on earth and always seemed to end up on the local garbage dump!
In every poor city of the world people actually live on the garbage dumps, picking a meager living from other people’s trash. I have seen exciting ministries started on garbage dumps. In one we actually saw a church grow up as a result of our medical outreach. But this is also a good metaphor for where many people live spiritually. We need to pick them up, and take them somewhere wholesome, somewhere clean.
The Samaritan knew how to meet people’s needs, and did not shrink from touching the wounds. Looking at the story from a practical perspective shows the wisdom of the Samaritan’s actions. Wine was probably the best available antiseptic and cleansing agent for open wounds. Oil was a practical pain reliever, having quick-acting analgesic properties. Bandaging continues today to be an important means of preventing infection and speeding healing. Even the fact that the Samaritan transported the man to a place where he could receive proper care while recovering shows his understanding of what it takes to restore health and wholeness.
As God’s people, we must understand that the Father’s heart is broken each time one of His precious sons or daughters find themselves in the hands of the thief, and are left beat up, naked, wounded, and half dead alongside the road. What we must also realize is that His heart is equally broken each time someone steps around, steps over, and walks on by one of His children in need.
How God longs to use us to demonstrate to a lost and dying generation His character and His father’s heart. He knows and cares deeply about our needs. He meets us in our places of hurt and weakness, and works through others who have His heart to minister physical and emotional healing.