What is your favorite Bible story?
Once I asked a church member. “What is your favorite story in the Bible?” He said “A Good Samaritan” story is my favorite. “Tell me the story!” I said to him. He said, “There was a man who walked around Jericho seven times a day, seven days. I do not know why. Maybe he wanted to find an entrance. Then many robbers or rabbis, I don’t know for sure, watched him carefully for seven days, and attacked him with bangs and shouts. The wall of Jericho tumbled down and the man was seriously wounded. All the robbers or rabbis and priests ran away and only one Samaritan man came down to him with five loaves of bread and two fishes. He brought him to an inn, but there was no room They had to put him in a barn with other animals, and three wise men came with gifts to take care of him. It is a beautiful story!”
If you laugh loudly when I tell this story, I guess you have read the whole Bible at least once. If you think that is a good story and agree with my friend, you have heard many sermons, but you have not read the Bible yourself.
We heard many stories, but we need to know them correctly.
Jesus told the story of a Good Samaritan. This is the correct version: “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 the 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.’”
What is the message of the story?
First, we can tell that there are many people who were attacked by robbers. We can name some robbers in the world, like Hitler, Putin, and (_________________). You can fill the blank. However, this is the description of our reality, but not the message of the story.
Then the priests and Levites did not do anything for the victims. They had their own reasons. We lock the church doors and do not open it for the homeless people, either. We have our own reasons. They might worry about purification laws, potential dangers, and other duties to do. Jesus did not criticize them, but described their actions without giving us the reasons why they did not do anything. Let us not judge them, either. We assume that they did their best in their situation. We can give them the benefit of doubt, but this is not the message of the story, either.
A Samaritan, however, did what he could do. He was the last person in the mind of the Jews who could be praised. A mixed blood, despised second class citizen suddenly became the hero of the story. It is not because he was perfect. Far from it. We can criticize him, saying, why he did not bring the victim into his house? Once, I bought a lunch to a homeless person. Then people said that it was just one time act. I should have train him to have a job, to have a place to stay, to find a partner, and to change laws for him to have a comfortable life. Not just one time act, but systematic social justice should be the solution. Those criticisms are well taken. They are right. However, still let us not discourage small act of kindness. Jesus also said, “Go and do likewise.” This is the message of the story. We need action.
Do small acts of kindness to whomever, whenever, however as much as you can.
In other words, if we do whatever small act of kindness, we can change the community together. One small act of kindness at a time will lead to bigger transformation of our community. However, if everybody cares for his or her own happiness, the whole community will be doomed. This is the other side of the same coin.
God wants us to care for each other.
In the book of Amos, God is holding a plumb line. A plumb line is a cord with a non-magnetic weight attached to one end. It is held for carpenters to have exact vertical line to keep their work straight. In Amos 7:7-17 the plumb line represents God’s justice. God is watching to see if we care for one another.
God says, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.” In other words, when Israel become individualistic community, it will be destroyed. “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.” We can say the same thing for a church. When church members do not care for others and try to get individual blessings, that church will be judged by God!
Some people do not believe in God’s judgment. A loving, caring God would not judge God’s people, they say! However, a loving caring doctor would perform a surgery on a patient to save the person. Many people misunderstand God’s judgment. God’s judgment is a surgery for a new life, not a death penalty for a convict. Read any prophetic book! At the end of those books, God promises restoration of the people! God will give second and third chance for God’s people to restore their genuine loving spirit.
All the patients have the right to make informed decisions.
In the book of Amos, Amaziah, a priest of Bethel, did not like the message of judgment. Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
Amaziah was like a doctor who said lies to a patient to give false hope and comfort. At the end, the patient will die because of her cancer. If the doctor shares honest and transparent diagnosis, the patient could have had an opportunity to make her own informed decision whether to have a surgery or not. A doctor who robbed her of the opportunity should be punished by the law.
Doctors who hide truth from the patients will be punished by the authorities.
To Amaziah who prohibited Amos to delivered God’s message, Amos said, “Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.” It is a harsh message. However, you do not have to worry about it. It is I who needs to pay special attention to such oracle!
I remember that once McDonald restaurant had to pay millions of dollars to a customer who spilt her coffee on her lap. She argued that McDonald did not put a warning sign on her cup. Now if you buy a cup of coffee from McDonald, they put signs around the cup, “HOT” “HOT” “HOT” “HOT” “HOT.” It is no brainer to me. Fresh coffee is hot! But that is the law! You have to give a warning to your customers! To prevent a million-dollar law suit, I am giving you now a warning sign: Hell is Hot! “HOT” “HOT” “HOT” “HOT” “HOT.” Do not go there!
Some faith communities bear fruits of the Holy Spirit.
In the Colossians text, Paul and Timothy give thanks to God because they heard of their faith in Christ Jesus and of the love they have for all God’s people. Paul said that the faith and love spring from the hope stored up for them in heaven.
The Israelites whom Amos criticized did not have hope for future. They lived only for the present gains for themselves. They did not value faith in God. They sought for gold, fame, and pleasure of the flesh. They did not believe in sacrifice and sharing. They tried to secure their future with their assets.
A role model makes a difference.
What did make a difference between the Israelites and the Colossians? Colossians had a role model. Israel did not have a good role model. Paul said in the letter, “You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant.” In Colossians, Paul said that Epaphras had committed to praying for the Colossians, “always wrestling in prayer for them” (Colossians 4:12). Epaphras was working hard for the church in Colossae, just as he was for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis (Colossians 4:13). Because of Epaphras, the Colossian community was thriving. Jesus would say to us, “Go and do likewise.” Epaphras was a good Samaritan in a sense.
I pray for you to be that one person (a Good Samaritan) that the whole community respect and follow. Put your name in the blank in the following paragraph. I will use our lay leader’s name as an example
I pray that God should fill ( John Bradbury ) with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that (John Bradbury) may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that (John Bradbury) may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified ( John Bradbury) to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Amen.