Last Sunday I spoke at Ebenezer Christian Reform Church in Berwyn, a neighborhood of Chicago. I shared 3 startling insights that will make you rethink the Good Samaritan. The insights prompted my writing the book Gospel Justice.
Startling Insight #1: The Good Samaritan is about the Gospel
I grew up in Sunday School. I’m so old we had flannel boards with felt figures. There was a priest, a Levite, an injured man and a Samaritan but there was someone missing. I’m kind of miffed this character was missing. There was no lawyer.
I like lawyers. I know that is not a popular opinion but they ask good questions. For too many years I heard everyone tell the story in Luke 10 beginning in verse 30, but the story really begins with the lawyers question in verse 25. “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
That’s a great question. That is the gospel question.
What I find startling is that Jesus did not pull out a prayer or simply say believe in me. Without question, Jesus was not contradicting that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through him. Jn. 14:6. He was not contradicting faith alone by grace alone in Christ alone. But he was profoundly saying that faith without deeds is useless. Jms 2:20. Jesus clearly rooted a saving faith in the loving service of others.
The story flows from what it means to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourself. Lk 10:27. Jesus said true faith loves the least of these. Mt. 25:40.
Living the Gospel
Last week we rejoiced in an example of gospel justice. Rhonda (not her real name) walked into a gospel justice center. She was afraid she would be judged. This was a “Christian” organization and she was a heavily tattooed lesbian. But when she was welcomed from the moment she arrived, provided hospitality, and prayed for she was overwhelmed.
She kept thinking about the sign she had seen in the waiting area – “All I need today is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.” After she received information and a plan on how she could dissolve her civil union, she met with a client advocate. Our client advocate listened to Rhonda talk about how she felt lost. She needed something. When the advocate explained the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus, Rhonda broke down in tears. She prayed to accept Jesus and was rejoicing in church for the first time in her life this past Sunday. Praise God.
That is the power of the gospel which Jesus calls us to in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Startling Insight #2: The Good Samaritan is about Justice
Honestly the Good Samaritan isn’t a Sunday School story. A man is brutally beaten, stripped and left for dead. This isn’t a snatch and grab or a simple mugging. The robbers took the man’s dignity along with all his possessions.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s final mountaintop speech examined the Good Samaritan. He surmised the Priest and Levite may have been afraid of the robbers. Fear prevented them from helping a neighbor. “If I stop what will happen to me?” But the Samaritan reversed the question, “If I don’t stop what will happen to him.”
Not only was injustice perpetrated against the injured man, but further injustice was served as good men did nothing but walk past. Every second in America someone is passed by who needs legal help. One in three Americans cannot afford an attorney and consequently we rank 97th out of 113 nations for providing affordable access to justice.
Good lawyers too often walk past the opportunity to serve. Fear from lack of knowledge, fear of the unknown, fear of time, all prevent them from serving. What will happen to me if I stop? What will happen to them if you don’t?
Lawyers have incredible opportunity to be Samaritans. The Samaritans were the most hated group of the day and I think lawyers can relate. But when that is the person who stops, the impact is significant. The last person an under-resourced neighbor expects to pray for them is a lawyer. Why would a lawyer leave their corner office to enter their neighborhood? Why would Jesus leave the corner office of heaven to enter our neighborhood? Justice compels love.
We need more lawyers to overcome fear, embrace faith, and be Good Samaritans reflecting the Great Samaritan. Learn more by downloading our guide, How to have life-changing impact through legal ministry.
Startling Insight #3: The Good Samaritan is about Initiative
Our hero took initiative. Not only did he stop from his busy schedule but he used the resources on hand – oil and bandages – to help a neighbor. He took time to transport the man to an inn, spent the night ensuring his care, and provided two days wages promising more on his return.
While I equate the Samaritan to a lawyer because of his despised position, the reality is he was a traveling merchant. Today business leaders have the same opportunity to impact neighbors in need. We call these business leaders Torchbearers. Our logo is diverse hands holding the light of Christ against the darkness of injustice. Here’s how business leaders are doing this.
For a $5,000 one-time investment a new legal ministry launches. The money is managed by GJI to provide a franchise tool kit, training, travel and support. We cover insurance, establish a web site, send a banner and provide a custom database system for tracking impact. The ministry is sustainable by collecting $30 dignity fees from clients. One time investment, life-time of transformational impact. Visit our site to learn more or e-mail me to explore further (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope you will see the Gospel Justice and Initiative in the Good Samaritan story. I pray you feel Jesus looking at you as he challenges you to Go and Do Likewise.