In June our national newspapers all showed one particular picture. It was taken at a Black Lives Matter event, which had descended from a peaceful protest into a violent riot. There was fighting going on between opposition groups and the police. The picture was of a black man carrying over his shoulder an injured white man. He was getting him out of trouble, to a safe place where he could be treated and cared for. The papers chased up this story, for among all the anger and violence it gave ‘a glimmer of hope’. A modern day good Samaritan, showing unexpected mercy.
Who was The ‘Good Samaritan?’
In Luke’s gospel an expert on the law, questioned Jesus regarding what should be done to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered by asking him what was written in the law, and the man’s reply was:
“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 neighbour as yourself.”Luke 10:27
Jesus confirmed that he had given the right answer. Then the expert pushed the question further and asked, who is my neighbour? In reply Jesus told the story of a man, a Jewish man, travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On this lonely road the man was attacked, robbed, beaten and left for dead. But there were other people also travelling on the same road. But the ones who would have been expected to stop and help him, passed by on the other side. The person least likely to help, was a Samaritan. The Jews looked down on and despised, the Samaritans. Yet he was the one who stopped and put himself out to help, with considerable effort and personal expense!
The One Who Showed Mercy
Jesus then asked the expert on the law: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The man answers “The one who had mercy on him” Jesus replies “Go and do likewise”
For a long time I understood mercy to mean forgiveness and the withholding of a justly deserved punishment. In this story, however, Jesus teaches that it is all of that, but it is also so much more.
Mercy is a love that knows no boundaries.Tweet
A love that reaches out, even with a small act of compassion, to those with whom one might strongly disagree. That has a powerful impact on all those who witness it! Can we imagine the power to bring change, if we were more willing to show mercy to one another?
You may also like to read the story of Philemon and Onesimus on the theme of reconciliation, unity, forgiveness, and mercy.