“Sir, we are really glad you are here today, but when we come to church, we try and look our best for God. I’d like to encourage you to go home and pray to God and ask him how he thinks you should dress next week”.
The man returned home and followed the preacher’s request. The next week he showed up; however, this time looking even worse. The preacher approached the man to ask him if he prayed about his appearance.
“As a matter of fact I did” said the man, “and God said – ‘I have no idea how you should dress, I’ve never been to that church’”
Funny story. Probably true somewhere.
I open up with that to get us thinking about something. October is national anti-bullying month. There are a number of blogs and TV shows doing specials about bullying. I spoke about bullying last night in youth group, and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss this topic on here. I think many people are bullies and do not even realize it. Consider the following Bible parable for an illustration:
Parable of the Good Samaritan
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant [Levite] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Counting the bandits as one, that would mean there are 6 characters in this parable. I really believe that each one of us fit into this parable somewhere. The question I want to ask each one of us (myself included) is, who are you?
The Bandits – These would be modern day bullies. These guys picked on someone who couldn’t defend himself. They beat him up and left him in a ditch to die. Some modern day examples could include cyber bullying, making fun of someone, mocking someone, looking down on someone because of how they act, dress, think, believe, etc. This could also include someone who is stuck up, prideful, or arrogant. A “know-it-all”. The old phrase “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” was popular when I was growing up. Words are probably more damaging than any stone or stick – words get to the heart. The book of James tells us that the tongue is like a deadly force strong enough to start fires. Bullying is not limited to physical abuse, today people can use the internet, texting, and all sorts of other avenues to bully someone else. Are you this character?
The Priest – Unfortunately many “religious” people fit the description of this character. Religious people are sometimes quick to judge and their excuse is they don’t want to be associated with those types of behaviors and lifestyles. Religious people can also be too busy attending their next seminar, conference, or service to recognize the real needs in others. Unfortunately this type of behavior is not what Jesus taught us. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, in fact the whole point of this parable was to illustrate who was a good neighbor. State Farm is better at this concept than some people who call themselves Christians. This would include how we treat people who participate in lifestyles that we would consider “un-Christian”. We sometimes put expectations on non-believers that are unreachable. We must remember that non-believers have not had an encounter with Jesus Christ, they have not received the Holy Spirit and until they do so, we cannot expect them to think or act like true Christ followers do. Instead of acting like the priest in this story, turning a blind eye to someone truly in need, we need to start reaching out and caring for all people of all walks of life, doing the same things that Jesus did. The Casting Crowns song “If We Are The Body” is a perfect illustration for this. Even though we never think about the priest in this way, I think the priest could be considered a bully because of his ignorant actions. Are you this character?
The Levite – This could be anyone who notices someone in need, possibly even feels compassion, but feels helpless or afraid, so they walk on by. Notice the verse says this character actually looked, but chose to keep walking instead. The Levite got close enough to perhaps feel the mans pain, maybe even hear his groans. He may have even thought to himself, “Well, I’ll pray for him as I walk down this path”. How many times do we see someone, feel compassion, perhaps even sense the pain in their eyes, or see their struggle with life, but then we assume someone else will come along and take care of them. I believe this type of behavior is also a form of bullying. It’s very unintentional and many times we are not even aware we are doing it. But it’s real, and in many cases we are missing out on opportunities to make a real difference in someone’s life. Are you this character?
The Jewish Man – In this parable, the Jewish man was the victim, the target. Today many people (perhaps even yourself) are victims of bullying. Perhaps you have been physically abused, verbally abused, or sexually abused. The list could go on and on. I believe in our lives we have all been the victim somewhere, somehow. The Bible tells us in the book of Proverbs that there is safety in having many advisers. If you are a victim or have been a victim and have not yet taken care of this – talk to a few trusted friends or Pastors. Be willing to receive help. God wants to restore your life and get you back onto the path of living a fruitful, abundant life. Don’t let the way someone treated you in the past ruin who God created you to be. Are you this character?
The Inn-Keeper – the inn-keeper is a very important character in this story that gets overlooked many times. The inn-keeper had options that could have went against the Good Samaritan’s requests. He could have refused vacancy for the Jewish man. He could have told the Samaritan that he didn’t allow these types of people in his hotel. But rather than react in that way, he chose to help the man. He provided assistance to the Samaritan and offered a place to recover. It is really key to have a support system that includes an inn-keeper. This could be anyone who provides comfort, security, and encouragement to those sticking their neck out to help others. We need to walk beside, provide for, and give confidence to those willing to walk the front lines. Sometimes when someone is helping others out, we need to walk up to them, put our arm around them and tell them how proud we are of them and let them know that we have their back. This type of encouragement can go a long way in someones life. Are you this character?
The Good Samaritan – The good Samaritan is obviously the main character of the story. He and the Jewish man had nothing in common. In fact, there were many reasons why the Samaritan should have rejected the Jewish man and walked the same route as the Priest and Levite. However, he put their differences aside and it was because of that ability to do so that made Jesus say that these men were neighbors. Do you look past the differences you have with people. Are you helping people out regardless of their beliefs? America is beginning to become a very diverse country. On one hand, this is very scary as we consider our safety and comfort zones. But on the other hand, this opens the door for many opportunities to be a “Good Samaritan” in someones life. Are you willing to go there? Perhaps you already are, and if this is who you are I just want to commend you and say thank you! It’s because of people like that put a smile on the face of God. Are you that character?
Jesus was called a “friend of sinners”. If Jesus was attending the church where the scruffy man showed up, how would he have reacted? Would he reach out his hand, welcome him, and make him feel safe and secure, not an outcast? Do we react the same way? How about in our neighborhoods and communities? Where we work? Where we go to school? Are we treating people like Jesus would want us to?
This is very tough for me to write this post. I don’t want to come across as acting like I have it all together. The truth is that I fit the character of the priest or levite more than I would like to admit. I really need help in this area, but God is working on me to continue practicing faith promise living in all areas of my life, especially the way I treat others who aren’t “like” me.
I am the Bandit. I am the Priest. I am the Levite. I am the Jewish Man. I am the Inn-Keeper. I want to be the Good Samaritan.
Who are you?