Once upon a time, there was an American who took a hike in the Smoky Mountains.
He was a couple of days down the trail when he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
Now by chance a State governor came along the trail, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
So likewise, a conservative talk show host happened upon the American as he walked down the trail, and he too passed by on the other side.
Also a local pastor, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a middle-eastern man, dressed in military fatigues and carrying a sub-machine gun, looking much like the pictures of ISIS soldiers, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds…
Much of what Jesus says is ridiculous. Completely unreasonable and absurd. Crazy, even.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and to the evil.
It doesn’t make sense and it is uncomfortable and it is hard. It is so very hard.
The idea of praying for those who want to bomb me is ludicrous. The thought of welcoming people who might be preparing to hurt my children is absurd. It makes my heart freeze and my stomach hurt.
I am frightened and I want to obey Jesus only when I can see the outcome, only when I know that I will be blessed, not blown to smithereens, in return.
There are so many commands of Jesus that I skip right over. I look at them, read them, and decide that they are not for me. Following Jesus is hard, and I am a coward.
Which means, if I am honest with myself, that I am no better than those I am frightened of.
And God reached down to earth for me. He became a refugee, a stranger, for my sake, to bring me back to Him.
God, help me.
Give me courage, give me strength. Give me faith to trust that in Your ridiculousness, You know what You are talking about.
Help me to love You enough to obey You. To obey all that You command.
Help those who do not love You, including myself who does not love You enough.
Emmanuel, God-with-us, help me. Help your Church.
Art Credits for Good Samaritan paintings in order: David Teniers the younger; Maximilien Luce; Russian icon; Pelegrín Clavé y Roqué; Rvalette; Domenico Fetti; All Saints Church wall painting