Go the Extra Mile

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On the Dangerous Road
When you read the parable of the Good Samaritan, who do you identify most with? Are you the priest, the Levite, or the Good Samaritan? Most of us would probably like to love more people like the Samaritan did in this parable. We can likely identify with the priest and Levite though and acknowledge that we have missed some opportunities alongside the road.  But have you ever considered that you might actually be the most like the man on the road who needed help? Jesus is our Good Samaritan. He picked you up in your shame and your hopelessness, and he didn't care about how you looked. Jesus just picked you up, and he pulled you off a road that you probably shouldn't have been on in the first place. And he didn't ask a bunch of questions about how you got there. He just says, “Let me just get you somewhere else, some place safe where you can heal and be taken care of.”  Something happens inside of you when you recognize you've been in the guy on the road. It starts to get really difficult for you to not stop for others when you realize you’ve been in that same position yourself. And people stranded on the side of the road can be mad, angry, abused hurt, and arrogant; they aren’t the easiest people to love and care for sometimes. But the more you see that you have been the guy on the road, the harder it becomes to just walk past people. Why? Because you remember what it was like to be overlooked by others and for your hurt to feel unseen. Seeing people leads to stopping for people. And the second you stop for people, then all of a sudden, you can't help but notice that the wounds they have look a lot like the scars that you carry. You just want Jesus to heal them because you know the change that healing brings. 
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Guilt Doesn't Get You There
The man who was robbed in the parable that we read in Luke 10 wasn’t just beaten up or without his money and valuables; it's worse than that. The robbers treated him like trash. They left him hopeless, helpless, and hanging on by a thread. He was treated as though he had no value and was disposable. He was wounded and exposed.  The two men, the priest and the Levite, who first come across this robbed man are men with the supposed character and means to take care of this hurting individual. But they see him, and they don’t help. Why? Maybe they had things to do and didn’t think they had time to stop. Maybe they had traveled down this road and they just had seen so many people like this guy on the side of the road and figured they couldn’t stop for every poor soul who ended up a victim here. So many times, we, as Christians, see people in need, but we just keep walking. We’ve all missed opportunities alongside the road. Stopping just seems complicated. It seems draining and costly. But, like the priest and Levite, we probably aren’t able to see these hurting people, walk past, and not feel some level of guilt inside. We know we were supposed to stop as ambassadors of Heaven. Jesus made sure to use two people in the parable that he knew, and everybody else would know, would feel guilty for not acting. Yet, guilt never gets you where Jesus wants to get you.  So, we try harder, make some different commitments, and create new to-do lists of how we can be the “Good Samaritan” to all those we encounter on our path. But this doesn’t work either for most of us, and we still miss opportunities for a variety of reasons. Maybe we aren’t meant to identify as the Samaritan though. What if we aren’t supposed to identify with the priest or the Levite? What if we are more like the man on the road than anyone else?
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Who's Your Neighbor?
In Luke 10:29, the expert is questioning Jesus on who his neighbor is. But he’s not asking because he genuinely doesn’t know the answer to this question. In fact, he could recite the right answer, but it’s that his heart couldn't comprehend it. This expert was trying to measure and justify his list of actions for others, but Jesus and Scripture were trying to measure and expand his capacity for relationship. So, Jesus responds, as he often does in the Gospels, with a parable. We read this well-known parable in Luke 10: 30-34: In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ In Jesus’s parable, the priest and the Levite would have been considered to be “neighbors” to this robbed man, much more than the Samaritan. The Samaritan would have likely been taught animosity and contempt towards a Jewish man, like the one he encountered on the road. And yet, we see the Samaritan respond in a way that the two “neighbors” did not. Jesus is showing this expert and us that we should not have boundaries of any type when it comes to who we love and consider to be a neighbor. Who in your life might you have justified as being outside of your comfort or capacity to share Jesus’s love with?