Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Good Samaritan

The parable of the "neighborly Samaritan" is the perfect way to illustrate the words of today's text about treating others as you would want to be treated. Jesus taught his followers to show *genuine* love, mercy, and compassion towards everyone...including the lowly, the sick, the poor, those of different ethnic and religious backrounds, and even strangers and enemies.

(illustration on pg 34 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 2)

(The following info below, are excerpts taken from chapter 3 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 2, and from chapter 22 of Draw Close To Jehovah)

Godly Justice: Compassionate and Merciful
The Jewish religious leaders taught a distorted view of justice and righteousness. They sought to attain righteousness by following a rigid code of laws—many of their own making. Their legalistic justice was void of mercy and compassion. Jesus revealed God’s view of justice. By what he taught and how he lived, Jesus showed that true justice is compassionate and merciful.

Apart from emphasizing the compassionate nature of godly justice, Jesus taught that it should embrace all people. On one occasion Jesus reminded a man versed in the Law that he should love God and his neighbor. The man asked Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?” Perhaps he expected Jesus to answer: “Your fellow Jew.” But Jesus told the parable of the neighborly Samaritan...

(Luke 10:25-37)
“A certain man versed in the Law rose up, to test him out, and said: “Teacher, by doing what shall I inherit everlasting life?” He said to him: “What is written in the Law? How do you read?” In answer he said: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,’ and, ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” He said to him: “You answered correctly; ‘keep on doing this and you will get life.’”But, wanting to prove himself righteous, the man said to Jesus: “Who really is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jer′i·cho and fell among robbers, who both stripped him and inflicted blows, and went off, leaving him half-dead. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down over that road, but, when he saw him, he went by on the opposite side. Likewise, a Levite also, when he got down to the place and saw him, went by on the opposite side. But a certain Sa·mar′i·tan traveling the road came upon him and, at seeing him, he was moved with pity. So he approached him and bound up his wounds, pouring oil and wine upon them. Then he mounted him upon his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two de·nar′i·i, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever you spend besides this, I will repay you when I come back here.’ Who of these three seems to you to have made himself neighbor to the man that fell among the robbers?” He said: “The one that acted mercifully toward him.” Jesus then said to him: “Go your way and be doing the same yourself.”

Is “the Wisdom From Above” at Work in Your Life?
Jehovah’s wisdom is practical. Hence, if we have truly acquired godly wisdom, it will be evident in the way we conduct ourselves. The disciple James described the fruits of divine wisdom when he wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.” (James 3:17) ... (the aspects that particularly apply in the parable of the good Samaritan, are the last 4 mentioned on that list)...

“Full of Mercy and Good Fruits”
“Full of mercy and good fruits.” Mercy is an important part of the wisdom from above, for such wisdom is said to be “full of mercy.” Notice that “mercy” and “good fruits” are mentioned together. This is fitting, for in the Bible, mercy most often refers to an active concern for others, a compassion that produces a rich crop of kindly deeds. One reference work defines mercy as “a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation and trying to do something about it.” Hence, godly wisdom is not dry, heartless, or merely intellectual. Instead, it is warm, heartfelt, and sensitive. How can we show that we are full of mercy?

Surely an important way is by sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom with others. What motivates us to do this work? Primarily, it is love for God. But we are also motivated by mercy, or compassion for others. (Matthew 22:37-39) Many today are “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) They have been neglected and blinded spiritually by false religious shepherds. As a result, they do not know of the wise guidance found in God’s Word or of the blessings that the Kingdom will soon bring to this earth. When we thus ponder the spiritual needs of those around us, our heartfelt compassion moves us to do all we can to tell them of Jehovah’s loving purpose.

In what other ways can we show that we are full of mercy? Recall Jesus’ illustration of the Samaritan who found a traveler lying by the roadside, robbed and beaten. Moved with compassion, the Samaritan “acted mercifully,” binding the victim’s wounds and caring for him. (Luke 10:29-37) Does this not illustrate that mercy involves offering practical help to those in need? The Bible tells us to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) Consider some possibilities. An older fellow believer may need transportation to and from Christian meetings. A widow in the congregation may need help with repairs on her home. (James 1:27) A discouraged one may need a “good word” to cheer him up. (Proverbs 12:25) When we show mercy in such ways, we give proof that the wisdom from above is at work in us.

“Not Making Partial Distinctions, Not Hypocritical”
“Not making partial distinctions.” Godly wisdom rises above racial prejudice and national pride. If we are guided by such wisdom, we endeavor to root out of our hearts any tendency to show favoritism. (James 2:9) We do not give preferential treatment to others on the basis of their educational background, financial standing, or congregational responsibility; nor do we look down on any of our fellow worshipers, regardless of how lowly they may seem to be. If Jehovah has made such ones recipients of his love, we should certainly deem them worthy of our love.

“Not hypocritical.” The Greek word for “hypocrite” can refer to “an actor who played a role.” In ancient times, Greek and Roman actors wore large masks when performing. Hence, the Greek word for “hypocrite” came to apply to one putting on a pretense, or one playing false. This aspect of godly wisdom should influence not just how we treat fellow worshipers but also how we feel about them. The apostle Peter noted that our “obedience to the truth” should result in “unhypocritical brotherly affection.” (1 Peter 1:22) Yes, our affection for our brothers must not be put on for show. We do not wear masks or play roles in order to deceive others. Our affection must be genuine, heartfelt. If it is, we will earn the trust of our fellow believers, for they will know that we are what we appear to be. Such sincerity paves the way for open and honest relationships between Christians and helps to create a trusting atmosphere in the congregation.