While visiting a museum of modern art, an aging lady turned to an attendant standing nearby. "This, I suppose," she said disdainfully, "is one of those hideous representations you call modern art?"
“Oh, no ma’am,” replied the attendant. "That's called a mirror."
Sometimes we dislike what we see in the mirror. I feel that way when I read Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.
You probably recall that, in the parable, a man had been beaten and robbed and left naked and bleeding by the road. A priest and a Levite happen by. Each saw the wounded man, but each ignored him and moved on.
I’m afraid that I’m looking into a mirror when I read about those two. I wonder if Jesus were telling this story today if he would cast a preacher as one of the villains.
Why didn’t they stop? What were they thinking? Maybe they were afraid. The attackers could have still been close by. Maybe they felt inadequate; neither was a doctor.
But, and this is where this starts to feel too much like a mirror, it seems that the two didn’t help a hurting human primarily because they were too busy being religious. And, apparently helping a fellow human didn’t fit into their concept of what it means to be religious.
That feels like a mirror to me because I know what it is to be so caught up in what we think of as religion - going to church, preparing sermons, teaching classes, and even writing articles – that I don’t notice people beat up beside the road. What about you? There was a Levite (a church goer?) in this parable, too.
Jesus had a different view of religion. He made a Samaritan, whose religious practices were suspect to the Jewish priest and Levite, the hero of the story. And Jesus connects his act of kindness to how one gains eternal life.
The question posed to Jesus that prompted the parable was: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25). His answer wasn’t, “Go to church more.” Not, “Give more” or “Pray more”. No, it was: 1) Love God and 2) Love your neighbor. That’s religion. That’s how one inherits eternal life.
As you look at the characters in this story, do you see yourself?
The bad news: you may not like what you see. The good news: you can change that.