What is a good Samaritan? That phrase has entered into our lexicon and means someone willing to stop and help someone else out. It’s a good thing to be a good Samaritan. In fact, many laws are in place to help protect people who act as good Samaritans. But where does this term come from?
It’s from the Biblical parable told by Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). It is about a merchant who was traveling and was jumped by thieves. They beat him to the point of being close to death. As the merchant lay on the roadside, two people walk by, a Priest and a Levite. Both are representatives of the worship of God. Both are called to serve God and the people. They walk by without doing anything. A little while later, a man stops to help the merchant. Not only does he help the merchant, he goes above and beyond what others would have done. And the kicker to this parable? The man who stopped and helped was a Samaritan. An enemy of the Jewish people. A person seen as a half-breed by many during this time, a mongrel not worthy of attention. In fact, many Jewish people living during this time period avoided Samaria so much that they would go miles out of their way traveling from the north heading south just to avoid the area.
This Samaritan is the person who showed love and mercy when those who were supposed to did not.
This is the scandal of grace.
Grace is shown by and shown to those who you wouldn’t expect. And this was the problem during Jesus’ day and it’s a problem today as well.
God’s grace goes beyond what we could even imagine. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: No matter how dark the sin is, the light of Jesus is brighter; no matter how deep the sin goes, the grace of God goes deeper. This is the scandal of Grace. That God’s grace is available to all who are willing to accept it. And this the grace we are to show to others. Just as we have received this grace, so should we show it and live it
But how? How do we live the scandal of grace?
Where Jesus was subtle, John the Baptist was blunt. When John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River (hence the name, Baptist, not a denominational or theological tag but what he did) he called people to repentance. He told tax collectors not to collect more than what they were supposed to (something that tax collectors were doing). He told Roman soldiers not to abuse their power (something that they were doing). He told them point blank how to live grace, in a not so nice way that is. John the Baptist wasn’t known for his subtlety.
Here’s the thing: Are we today living grace? I struggle with it (especially when I drive, and totally when I drive in downtown Chicago…so not grace filled). We all do. We don’t like showing grace to those who are different from us, those who are living in ways we don’t approve of. People who are not in the same socio-economical-racial strata as we are. It’s the truth.
Grace needs to be shown. The grace of God needs to be shown in the darkest of night. To be honest, many Christians falter at this. We struggle with this. It is part of our DNA to mistrust those who are different than our own circles. We gather together in tribes. We try to be with people who speak the same language as us, who act like us, who share the same things as we do. In these circles we’re willing to show grace to others.
But the scandal of grace extends past that. Jesus says at the end of Matthew
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
In fact heaven itself is described as a place where all nations, tribes, and tongues will gather together to praise Jesus. Heaven will reveal just how much the scandal of grace goes.
But we must live it out. We must extend grace to others. Just as we have been given grace, so must we show it.
How can you show God’s grace today?