22 Sep No Matter Who is In the Ditch
September 22, 2020
This past Sunday I preached on one of the most familiar stories in the Bible, a story we frequently call the parable of The Good Samaritan. The focus of my sermon was on how we can be a Good Samaritan like the one in the story. But as I’ve been continuing to ponder this text over the past couple of days, I’ve been struck by how we could also tell (and preach) this story from the perspective of the man in the ditch. And here is what Jesus conveys to us if we look at it from this angle: it doesn’t matter who is in the ditch or why, only that we offer help and aid to whoever has a need.
I make it a conscious habit not to wish my life away. As kids, we develop a bad habit of wishing time would hurry up. We want Christmas to come, or our birthday. We want the weeks to hurry by so school will start—or end. We want to be sixteen so we can drive or eighteen so we can graduate, leave home, and move into adulthood. We want that last year or two of college to be over so we can start a career or a family. Somewhere along the way I realized that each day is a gift, too precious to wish it away any faster than it will go all on its own. It’s an insight that helps me be more present to each day and appreciate what is in front of me.
All that being said, I have a confession to make. I cannot wait for November 3 to be in the rearview mirror. I am already worn out with this election business. It seems to be adding an extra thick layer of anxiety on top of a year that was doing a superb job of generating stress without any additional help. I am weary of the hyperbole, weary of the distortions of truth, weary of the political gamesmanship. Just plain weary.
Far more concerning than any fatigue, however, is the callous disrespect that is on public display. People on both sides of the political aisle speak with blatant disregard for those who disagree with their viewpoints. What alarms me is that it is not merely the political positions (bigger government or less, universal healthcare or not, etc) that are attacked but the person. And that brings me back to the parable of the Good Samaritan.
I want to say this as clearly and unequivocally as I possibly can: no matter who is in the ditch, even if it is your political “enemy,” Jesus calls you to love them and to help them. You are called to tend to them, to bind their wounds, to reach out in mercy and compassion, to go out of your way to help them. No questions. No exceptions.
I chose the story of the Good Samaritan last Sunday because I was preaching about the condition of our hearts—a subject that Jesus repeatedly says is of vital importance. The fact that Christians are as guilty of spewing as much anger and vitriol in this election cycle as non-Christians exposes just how deeply sin infects our hearts. In this sense, the 2020 election serves as a wonderful litmus test to show what is really going on inside you. What is your internal reaction to the political drama that is unfolding in front of us, particularly with regard to those who identify with the opposite party or candidate from the one you support? Can you honestly say that with love and mercy, you are willing to be the Good Samaritan to others whose opinions you do not share, should they be in the ditch?
Growing up in the South, bologna was a staple of life. I actually never liked it much, and as a kid, always picked peanut butter if I was given a choice about what kind of sandwich was making its way into my lunch box. But here’s the thing about bologna: no matter where you slice it, it’s still bologna. Friends, the same is true of our hearts. If you shudder to think of helping your “enemy,” if your heart is closed to extending mercy to someone in the ditch regardless of who it is, then you have work to do. Jesus wants us to bleed love and compassion, no matter who or what cuts into our hearts.
Yours for the Kingdom,