2012 is here, goodbye 2011. Thank you, Lord, for the great memories of the past year. Another new year of hope to look forward to. Time to wipe the slate clean. A fresh start, another opportunity to do better than last. Thank you, Lord, for a new beginning.
Now comes the perennial question, “What will be my new year’s resolution?”
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 ff) is a good place to start. It is a familiar story, right? Remember the question of that expert in the law who asked: “Teacher, what must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus rhetorically answered with another question: “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
In response, the expert said: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus commended him: “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
But since he wanted to further justify himself, he pressed on and asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus responded by relating the story of the Good Samaritan and asked the expert of the law who was the better neighbor: “Which of these three (the priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan), does it seem to you, was a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?” And the expert said, “The one who acted with mercy toward him.”
And Jesus said to him, “Go, and act similarly.” (Luke 10:37)
If you were searching for a resolution, the response of Jesus is the perfect one. After all, isn’t our life’s journey all about responding in love to all the circumstances we find ourselves in. To be Christ-like under any given situation. To love despite the cost.
One must note, however, that the Samaritan did not become the “Good Samaritan” based on a one-off experience of helping out a man overrun by robbers. What motivates a man to help a complete stranger who is all bloody, half-alive and would require money, time, caring and attention to recover? As the story goes, the Samaritan had to fork out money to the innkeeper to take care of the man. What is there to gain? There is no-pay-off! There is no promise of a return! Have you ever wondered why the Good Samaritan did what he did in spite of the lack of a pay-back?
I will venture to say that his action was borne out of a deeply embedded sense of compassion for a fellow human being who needed help. What he did came out of his character naturally, a habit of reaching out to those in need. Such a life orientation however does not spring up overnight but is developed over time. He must have done similar acts of charity in the past and that is why helping out a wounded man was never a bother to him but was a natural consequence of who he was as a person, a kind and compassionate man.
But is mercy a natural virtue in a man especially when the stakes are high? Most definitely not, as the Levite and the priest showed. The two were most unwilling to help.
Mercy springs forth out of a commitment to love. You reap what you sow, the good bible tells us. And it is absolutely right. Love is something that becomes etched in your heart when you act it out in the daily grind of life. To love and show kindness and compassion to the needy is never an intellectual exercise. It is when it becomes a daily habit of loving unconditionally that it will come out naturally when circumstances demand a response of love. This is what the Good Samaritan is all about, the embodiment of goodness and love displayed, that has been molded over time.
But the question is this: “Who sowed love in the heart of the Samaritan in the first place?” Probably, he was shown love by his parents as a child. Perhaps, his friends did. No matter who did, however, I think the point is he must have been shown love during his formative years and that is why it had become also a habit for him to show compassion and kindness when the situation arose. Never to turn a blind eye, he will overreach himself to others in need spontaneously because this has been the way of life he has been accustomed to. He must been shown love throughout his life and consequently on his part he would also respond with love.
Isn’t this familiar to us as followers of Christ? We know where love springs from. It is what our heavenly Father gives to us every day of our lives. We know and we experience God’s love every time in spite of our sinfulness. There have been innumerable blessings He has showered upon us in 2011 and still we know and remain confident in His Word that He will continue to bless us in 2012. We can count on it because God is trustworthy. God is love. He, our Lord, loves us. And that is why, we must love God and our neighbor in response.
Our New Year’s resolution must then be: “To live our lives in love and with love.” In short, “To be Christ-like”.
Hebrews 10:24 aptly says it: “… Let us be considerate of one another, so as to prompt ourselves to charity and to good works.” This is what the Samaritan did and that is why we call him the Good Samaritan.
For the year 2012 and beyond, let us then call on the power of the Holy Spirit to gift us with the sensitivity and awareness in our hearts to always see Christ in the others we will meet along the way and act on it. May there be no cost, distraction or burden in our hearts too heavy to carry that will tempt us to turn a blind eye just like the priest and the Levite to the needs of our neighbor.
May we all go and act similarly as the Good Samaritan.
Happy New Year to all BCBP Members! May God bless us all. To God be the glory!