A couple was taking a trip to a nearby city to do some shopping when on their way out of town they came across an older gentleman along the side of the road with a duffle bag and his thumb in the air. The couple drove on past, but the wife asked her husband if he wanted to pick the gentleman up. A moment of decision was at hand, should they turn around and pick up this stranger and take a risk or should they just continue on driving as though there had never been anyone there. They turned around, still with some fear and anxiety about the person that they were about to pick up, but they decided to trust in God for their protection. They turned around again, this time in sight of the man and headed back towards him to pick him up. This time the decision was the man’s. Would he trust total strangers enough to get into the vehicle and accept a ride knowing that he would be at their mercy? He knew that he needed a ride as the hill that he had only made it a quarter of the way up had already been about all that his old bones could bear. He had already spent two nights sleeping under a bridge in the cold to stay out of the rain and desperately needed to make it to his friend’s house who had agreed to take him in and get him off of the street. Could he really chance passing up a ride, how much longer could he continue? He decided to trust in God for his protection and to get into the vehicle.
It was time to meet. The gentleman, who was 64 years old, opened the door with a smile and graciously thanked them for the ride as he placed his bag into the vehicle. The couple knew immediately that they had made the right choice. They could sense that the Lord was with them and that the Lord was with the man. As they drove down the road they were blessed by each other in learning about each other’s lives and their walk with the Lord. The homeless gentleman would learn that they were pregnant and would be the first person to know the name of their child. The couple would learn about the difficulties in life that the gentleman had faced and the decisions that he made which landed him in jail where he would come to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and that would ultimately leave him homeless for the last eight years of his life. They continued on and would eventually share a meal together and would end up well past their original destination to take this gentleman as far as he would accept a ride from them, but the impact would be lasting. They would reflect upon what Jesus had done for them to guide them down this path, all the while keeping them safe on their journey. All because they decided to trust and to obey.
This story makes me think about the Good Samaritan and about how many people had passed by the man as he lay their half dead and naked on the road, just like the countless number of people that had passed by this homeless man. Here is the parable of the Good Samaritan as told by Jesus.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
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 this 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.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “and who is my neighbor?” (10:28). It is difficult to love people, it is difficult to accept that we are to love all people not just the ones that are closest to us or that we care about the most or even just the ones that are easiest to love. I cannot even begin to count how many times I have been like the expert of the law who asked Jesus who was considered to be his neighbor. I know that I fail at this so often, but I want to do better. Just today I failed miserably at this and had to repent and ask God to show me how to love someone whom I have no understanding of how to love. I had to ask God to soften my heart for this person and to show me who they really are, to show me their hurts, their desires, to show me what He sees not just what I see. You see I have a bad habit of judging people and trying to justify myself, just as the teacher of the law was trying to do, but Jesus is clear in His teaching. We are to love, even when it is difficult, even when it costs, even when the other person could never repay us because our reward will be waiting for us in heaven. So where is your love?