Call to compassion
By Lynn Jones
In Jesus’s story about the Good Samaritan, the Good Samaritan not only cared for the wounded man on the side of the road, but he also carried him to a nearby inn. Then, “The next day he took out two silver coins 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’” (Luke 10:35). It would have been easy for the innkeeper to say, “You don’t expect me to believe that do you? I’ve heard all of that before. You will never be back.” Instead, he evidently agreed to do this.
This latter part of the story always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Let me tell you why.
When I was pastor of First Baptist Church of Arcadia, Louisiana, our location near Interstate 20 attracted many travelers looking for a handout. If they were traveling east, they often explained that they were going to Florida to pick fruit. If we would help them, they frequently promised that they would send money back to us as soon as they got the job, and some of them even promised to send me a box of oranges. When the first one promised to send me a box of oranges from Florida. I said, “If you don’t mind, could you also send me a box of grapefruit?” He said, “No problem.” Then I wrote down our address for him. Later, when my wife Danielle wanted to buy a sack of oranges, I told her that would not be necessary because soon we would be receiving several boxes of oranges as well as a boxes of grapefruit from Florida.
After several months of fruitless waiting for boxes of oranges and grapefruit to fill the hallway outside my office, I must confess to a rising sense of disappointment and a creeping cynicism. Finally, if anyone ever asked for our address to which he could send back money or fruit, I wouldn’t take the time to write it out. I would just say, “Just send it to Arcadia, Louisiana. They all know me here.”
Author Madeleine L’Engle once said of the book business, “I’m all for realism in the book business, but I’m afraid of cynicism, and the two are often too close for comfort.”
That is also the struggle in the Christian life. Jesus said that we are to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. We cannot succumb to gullibility, but neither can we become hardened and cynical about life. We must continue to show love and compassion.
When you look at the story of the Good Samaritan, it was not just the Good Samaritan who stuck his neck out; it was also the innkeeper. Maybe we ought to call it the story of “The Good Samaritan and the Good Innkeeper.”
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.