Go and do likewise.

In the name of… There’s a young woman – in her early 20s – that I’ve been talking to a lot lately. She’s just about at that point in life where she is feeling ready to make her own decisions – to really take hold of her own life. And still, every once in a while, I’ll watch as she comes to me – or to her mom – or to someone else in authority and asks them to make the decision for her. She doesn’t do it directly – but in sort of a round about kind of way. Tell me what you would do? Tell me how to do this? Whatever the form of the question – the underlying desire is to have someone show her the right way. When in fact, we know that…the right way is something we have to find for ourselves. We have to face the fear of the possibility of getting it wrong – and make the decision for ourselves. But it’s easier – with the tough stuff – to hope that someone we trust will show us the right way…that someone will show us where all the danger spots are… This is exactly what the lawyer is doing in our Gospel today. He knows the law. He knows the way. But he still wants Jesus to take out the guesswork for him.

He wants to be assured – as we all do – that all you need to do is follow this short easy list of tasks – and poof. Eternal life. Which one of us is unlike the lawyer? He asks Jesus a question. Jesus answers it simply – and then he says no wait! It must be more complicated than that! Tell me exactly what I need to do…black and white lines… don’t leave anything to chance. Give me the path. Show me the way. Turn me in the right direction. Almost…do the work for me? The lawyer, which probably here means that he had studied scripture a great deal – that he knew the religious law well – doesn’t want to have to navigate his faith. He wants Jesus to spell it out. To eliminate the doubt.

And how does Jesus respond? Not so easily. Jesus tells a story that many of us have heard more than a few times. The story of the Good Samaritan is one of Jesus’ most famous parables. A man goes down from Jerusalem to Jericho and on the way he is stripped, beaten, robbed, and left to die.

Since we presume that this man is a Jewish man, we should be shocked when it is not the priest – or the Levite – members of his own tribe – who stop to care for him…no it is the Samaritan. The Samaritan and the Jews had despised each other for thousands of years before Jesus told this story. So the crowd around Jesus would have been uncomfortable as Jesus told this story. In fact, you can almost hear the lawyer’s discomfort in his answer – he doesn’t name the Samaritan as being the man’s neighbor – he just says “the one who showed him mercy.” So, as we often do, we find Jesus defying culture, ignoring boundaries, and trying to create a new social order. We also, though, find Jesus in this story teaching a different important lesson – and its that lesson that struck me most this week as I thought about these texts. At the end of our passage today from Colossians, Paul writes that we have been rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God. Rescued from the power of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God…thus enabled, because we have been forgiven, to share in the inheritance of the saints of light. Now but not yet of Paul.

Jesus’ parable today shows us what the kingdom of God looks like – shows us what we should BE like if we have been transferred into the kingdom of God.

There is this dichotomy between light and dark – between the lawyer who seeks righteousness based on right-ness and the Samaritan, wrong by all accounts, who shows mercy. Dark and light. Rightness and mercy. The bigger lesson that Jesus seeks to teach the lawyer with this parable is that the greater trait is not to be able to quote chapter and verse Not to have the law to cite as your defense But to show mercy. To show compassion. To be part of the kingdom of God is to show mercy. We live in the light when we take a step away from being right – when we are brave enough – and mature enough to navigate our own path of faith – without the crutches of the rightness of the law. It’s still nice to be right, isn’t it? But the point is that our salvation doesn’t depend on it. Our salvation depends on Christ – who teaches us that the first and foremost job of those who would follow him is to care – to welcome, to love, and to show mercy. We live in the light when we choose this new way – it’s risky, for sure. Because there are fewer clear signs on our path when love proves more important than piety.

Things seem a little more ambiguous – because they are. But… If we believe ourselves truly to be saved by Jesus Christ – then our focus has to shift. Not because doctrine and religious law are bad – but because Jesus shows us time and time again that love and mercy are greater. Jesus raises up the Samaritan – not because he was able to cite the holiness codes, or quote chapter and verse, or because he offered the greatest gift at the temple. History tells us he’d have done none of those things. Jesus raises up the Samaritan because he shows mercy. Because he puts his duty of kindness ahead of those that have been constructed by man. And then – as if this lesson wasn’t enough… He tells the lawyer to go and do likewise. To go and be like the hated foreigner. To trade his pride in his rightness – to trade his security in his doctrinal regulations – to trade his position and comfort of authority and privilege – For a position that is defined by servanthood – and by the desire to show mercy. Go and do likewise. Go and show mercy first. You have been rescued from the darkness. Transferred into the kingdom of God.

How will you live it? Are you ready to put love first? To take part in this new kingdom? Or are you still holding onto the old order – undergirded by the false security of law and rightness? To whom do you owe your love and mercy this morning? Jesus says go and do likewise.

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