Rediscovering the Good Samaritan

Rediscovering the Good Samaritan by Joy and Matthew Steem

If you were to ask anyone who knows me what my most obvious foible is, it would probably be my complete and utter lack of physical direction.

Before the advent of GPS, my family could expect about a half a dozen phone calls (or more) if I was out and about. Asking directions from me is probably as good as tying a wet, mangy dog to one ankle and an angry mule to the other – additionally blindfolding yourself too.

So you can understand my anxiety when a vision impaired, somewhat desperate sounding, and apparently homeless lady approached me in search of directions. Me? Provide directions? I am not proficient in this skill. Besides, I was running late for a meeting.

Unaccustomed to intentionally practicing any type of navigation and in an increasingly hurried state, when I finally grasped her desired destination, I did what came most naturally to me. I pointed.

It was at this moment the lady, complete with sunglasses and a red tipped walking stick, generously and sincerely addressed the obvious: “Pointing is not enough, my dear.”

This scenario made me wonder how often I forget this simple truth: that in a world blinded by sorrow, hurt, ambition and greed, the time-economizing scheme of mere pointing isn’t effective.

Let’s consider the story of the Good Samaritan. Somehow it wouldn’t resonate with us quite as profoundly if the Samaritan, say, would have speedily penned a note and put it beside the bleeding and destitute man. “Nearest inn is three miles, good luck!”

Even if the Samaritan had included enough money for accommodation and medical treatment, something integral would be missing from this parable. Of the spiritual virtues that impress me the most about this story, it is usually generosity. Not only in the financial sense, but in one of our more frequently coveted resources. Time.

Perhaps this was one of the reasons that I found Alan Fadling’s An Unhurried Life so exceptionally relevant. Immersed in a culture that enthusiastically embraces rush over rest and efficiency over inner-stillness, the discipline of quietude is often sacrificed at the altar of productivity.

Our days clothed in appointments, errands, and tasks, we assure ourselves that true quietness of heart and spirit are simply not luxuries we can afford. After all, haven’t we been told often enough “time is money!” Little wonder then that we might easily conflate the word “hurry” with “successful.” Yet Fadling’s retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan reminds me of the significant spiritual importance of compassionate and loving attentiveness that can come only through intentional spiritual rest.

Fadling points to the idea that often the currency of compassion is time; and, if we are to genuinely carry out the Great Commission, we can’t do it in a hurry. Love and efficiency, he says, are seldom friends. You might even say they live on opposite sides of the chessboard.

So it is in Fadling’s retelling of the Samaritan narrative that the traditionally unnamed humanitarian becomes Larry, a leisurely, jalopy driving journeyer who is “unhurried enough to care.” Not being a medical practitioner or person of local property, when Larry happens across the unfortunate victim of circumstance, he gently gives the injured man what he does have: tangible, unhurried compassion.

In this case, it takes the form of personally accompanying the victim to the inn and arranging for his physical needs to be met. Perhaps Larry knew that love often rests outside both production and consumption. In delaying his trip, Larry evidenced that he knew efficiency should never get in the way of love. Or perhaps, as Fadling encourages us, Larry’s tale demonstrates that “in the language of efficiency, love is willing to waste time.”

Larry knew that pointing was not enough.

For me, pointing is often the result of trying to avoid the uncomfortable question, as Fadling says, “if I’m not producing something, achieving something, accomplishing something,” then “who am I”?

I often point because I feel rushed or unqualified. I point because I think it is efficient. But is it actually effective? In fact, when I consider the prevalence of our culture’s quest for uncompromised productivity I am challenged by Fadling’s statement which I think would resonate with us all: “I surely don’t want to be known as unlovingly efficient.”

Scripture reminds me that my greatest resource is not my ability to monetarily capitalize on my time, money, physique, personality, or skill. My greatest resource is Christ’s continual presence in me, a resource that cannot be cultivated, harvested or shared with haste.

And so, in Fadling’s admonition to step back from the bombardment of distractions and embrace rest, I am reminded that love, or God’s love to me and in turn the love that I have been imbued with to share with others, is unhurried.

If you find Jesus’ call to rest inspiring, read Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture and Happiness and Contemplation.

Flickr photo (cc) by Rosie O’Beirne

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