Thursday, May 05, 2005

Costly Grace

"But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity."
It is, of course, well known that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us the very hard lesson that we are to show kindness even to those we are most inclined to dislike. But it's worse than that. It teaches that we should help them out even when we have something else we'd rather be doing.

I've become keenly aware recently (though the principle is obvious) that it is quite easy to show someone kindness when it doesn't particularly cost me anything or inconvenience me -- of course, it feels good to be kind -- but when an act of kindness interferes with something I'd rather be doing or causes me personal discomfort, then I have to grit my teeth to do it. And that's with people I like.

I think that's the essence of this parable. A lawyer has just asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He admits that he knows that he must love God with all his heart and love his neighbor as himself, but still he wants to justify himself, so he asks "Who is my neighbor?" He's quite willing to love his neighbor as himself, just so it doesn't inconvenience him too terribly much.

Note the parallel of this scenario to the rich young man who asks Jesus the same question, also claims to have kept the commandments, but goes away sad when Jesus tells him to give away all his money.

A couple of days ago I quoted John Henry Newman as saying, "The aim of most men esteemed conscientious and, to all appearance, not how to please God, but how to please themselves without displeasing Him." And here it is again.

But the Samaritan in the parable isn't like this. He was travelling, probably couldn't wait to get through Judea and away from these people who despise him, and yet he stops to help this man. He takes him to an inn and, I hadn't noticed before, stays overnight taking care of him. Then the next day, he provides for the stranger's care out of his own pocket.

Truly, this is what the kingdom of God is like. May God grant me the grace to do likewise.

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