“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.”
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is an incredible story that is esteemed yet often passed over as a simple platitude. The phrase “good samaritan” is used commonly in our vernacular to refer to someone who acts kindly to a person they don’t know. Those of you who’ve taken a CPR/First Aid class are familiar with Good Samaritan Laws. Unfortunately, when we reduce the moral of this story to a mere “be nice to strangers” we miss out on its substance.
Jesus intends this story as a means to confront those who, in self-righteousness, want to excuse themselves from spontaneous selflessness. As in most of Jesus’ teachings, He is aiming to affect the heart, not merely the actions. He’s teaching us that our neighbor is anyone in our path who is in need of practical mercy. If we walk by someone who is innocently suffering without helping them, we’ve proved that our hearts are wicked and distant from God. That kind of disregard for injustice is not befitting for those who claim to know the Messiah. Instead, God is redeeming a people who will jump at the opportunity to serve the exploited. Positively, He wants us to delight in bending down to bring others up for that is where He, Himself, finds joy (see Heb. 12:2).
One of the struggles we’re seeing in conservative, evangelical churches is a lack of tenacity to help suffering people. Sure a church may feed homeless folks around holidays, do a backpack drive at the end of summer, or host a VBS. Enduring charity, however, is an afterthought. We check-off our cultural engagement responsibility by lobbying against homosexual marriage and abortion. But, in large part, we don’t embrace the marginalized in our society. We don’t take any effort to address the systemic problems which lead to poverty, drug addiction, abuse, and exploitation. If we love the Gospel of grace then what excuse do we have for not lending a hand to these folks? Jesus explains in Matthew 25:31-46 that on Judgment Day our reception of Him will be measured by our care for those in need. We have an obligation that’s driven by joy in the Gospel and an understanding of eternal consequence.
I’m praying that a shift comes and I don’t want to be overly negative, we are seeing the tides change. It’s glorious to see the Gospel causing God’s people to show practical mercy! And yet, as in everything, we want to see more.
I’d like to take a moment to outline a way that you can embrace persons in our society who are in need of your sustained charity. Allow me to put a child in your road that you must either inconvenience yourself to help or pass by on the other side.
Kids in foster care find themselves caught in a traumatic situation through no fault of their own. It’s the poverty, addictions, negligence, and abusiveness of others that is responsible for their induction into this poorly-run government system. When kids exit the system without a family the stats aren’t good. Within four years of their emancipation 50% won’t have a high school diploma or GED, 25% will be homeless, 42% will have children of their own, and they will suffer PTSD at twice the rate of US combat veterans.*
Do you know what would prevent these things from defining children that emancipate from foster care? The love, support, and acceptance of a family. You can throw all the incentives and programs at these kids but unless they find a family, their chances of thriving are slim. Here they are suffering while in foster care and then becoming a drain on society because their greatest, practical need is missing. Kids need families and these kids don’t have them.
So, let me ask an honest question. What will you do about it? You don’t have to have all the answers but your heart needs to cry out “I want to find a way to help!” If you’re sensing that then please let me know (e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org). I’d be overjoyed to help you find a way to serve. If you’re a parent, then consider taking in a child. If you can’t parent then let’s talk about creative ways you can encourage parents to get involved or find a way to volunteer. Whatever it is, please don’t pass by these kids on the side of the road. Display to them the love, acceptance, and mercy you’ve found in Christ.
May God bless your efforts to make much of Him by giving freely of yourself!
For His glory and fame,
*Annie E. Casey Foundation – click here for the report.