For the last two days we’ve walked through the parable of the Good Samaritan. (It would be best to read these first, for today’s to make any sense.) And we made it to the end of the story. Is there anything else left to be said?
But I think we’ve skipped over the final words of Jesus a little too quickly. Remember them?10:37b “Go and do likewise.”
What might that actually look like? What would our lives be like if we intentionally set out to go and do likewise? What would our churches look like? Here are some of my thoughts…
I think we’d be more circumspect in uncritically adopting the values of the world when it comes to things like race. No matter what part of the political spectrum they come from.
We wouldn’t just take on board the suspicion and outrage fuelled by the Alan Joneses or Today Tonights of this world. (American readers: substitute “the FOX network”.) Chatting to someone from a different ethnic background over coffee at church, but then ranting along with talkback radio during the week about how they are destroying our country. Or forwarding emails to one another – emails full of half-truths and intolerant attitudes, about wanting them to go back where they came from; about how they can’t speak our language.
At the other end of the spectrum, we wouldn’t jump on board with naive viewpoints that think it can all be solved by a group hug and a bit more understanding. Fuelled by a worldview that sees religion as evil, and says we can make peace on our own if we all try hard enough. That doesn’t acknowledge the fundamental role of sin in dividing humanity. That doesn’t acknowledge the need for God. “Because we can save ourselves, and the environment!”
Instead, we’d welcome multi-ethnic Australia for different reasons. We’d acknowledge the difficulties when different cultures mix. We’d realise the need for sacrifice on our part; that it’s costly. But we’d do it because it gives us the chance to imitate our God. Who didn’t expect us to make the first move. Who met us when we were lying naked in a ditch.
So even though we were commanded to go and make disciples of all nations, by the grace of God here in Australia we don’t have to go very far at all! The nations are coming to us! Thousands of people who are now in Australia, many of whom would have had almost no chance of hearing the gospel message in their home country now are living all around our churches. They could be united with us, not because they learn our language or adopt our culture. But because they reconcile with our God – the one true God of all peoples.
Sure, it can make us uncomfortable sometimes. It can be confronting. Sometimes even scary. But I don’t think the cross was a walk in the park either. To quote John Piper:‘If Christ died – mark this! died – to make the church a reconciled body of Jews & Gentiles, “red & yellow, black & white” & every shade of brown, then to glory in the cross is to glory in the display of the fruit of that cross.’
And it’s not just race. I think we’d see it in our attitude to social class, too. Although we like to think that Australia’s a classless society, we’re not. We might not have the British aristocracy or the Hindu caste system, but we still divide on socio-economic lines. Often the markers are the level of education we achieved. The kind of work we do. Or whether we have a job or not.
If we’re wanting to emulate God in showing compassion across purity lines, then the gospel will go from us across those boundaries as well. We won’t stay safely within our own ‘kind’. We won’t just adopt the prejudices of our own group, and look down on those on the other side of the line.
And we won’t just look upon those with less than we have and think that they somehow deserve it; that they’ve brought it on themselves. After all, if God had taken that attitude to us, where would we be?
“For God so loved the world that he looked at us and said: well, if you didn’t spend all your paycheck on cigarettes and alcohol, maybe you wouldn’t need to pray for your daily bread. I’m not going to forgive any trespasses until you’ve cleaned up your act a bit and show that you deserve to be helped. And as for sending my only son: I’ve sent prophet after prophet and where’s that gotten me? What a waste of taxpayer’s money – I mean, what a waste of grace!”
We were incapable of rescuing ourselves from the ditch we were in – why should we expect others to be any different?
What must we do to inherit eternal life? Follow Jesus. And that means showing his love, his compassion, his mercy across all man-made boundaries. To ask ‘and who is my neighbour’ – well, if we have to ask, we just don’t get it.