When I’m reading the Bible, I tend to cast myself in the role of hero.
I am John, the beloved. Never Judas, the betrayer.
I am Ruth leaving my home country to follow mother-in-law Naomi to Bethlehem. Never am I Orpah who turns back to familiar Moab.
I am David, loyal subject to King Saul, daring to step on the field of battle and confront Goliath. Never am I David’s frightened older brothers cowering in camp.
I am the “Good Samaritan” who uses my own money to help a wounded traveler, never the hurried priest or Levite who see the man from a distance and keep going.
But heroism in my head is worthless. A hero is love in action, not some Walter Mitty daydreamer.
God is love. And His love for us moved him to do something sacrificial. (John 3:16) In response, His followers are to: “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31) and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mathew 22:39)
The Samaritan did this, and that makes him the hero.
Two religious Jews ignored the immediate needs of a fellow human being lying naked, beaten, robbed and left for dead beside the road. In contrast, the Samaritan interrupted his travel plans and “came to where the injured man was; and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him.” (Luke 10:33)
This guy didn’t worship in the “right” place. (Samaritans weren’t welcome at the Temple in Jerusalem.) Yet, he didn’t conform to the social norm of avoiding contact with Jews, his estranged relatives. We don’t know where the Samaritan came from or where he was going. We do know he was on the same road and saw the same thing the others did.
His response was different.
He felt compassion for the wounded stranger. Disregarding his schedule, what people might say, maybe aware that he might have suffered the same fate, the Samaritan did what he could to help. He imitates Jesus, our Savior, who through His sacrifice “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3)
What about you and me?
We can get pretty smug in our religious routines and completely miss that God is all about demonstrated LOVE. Meanwhile, people who don’t “do church,” but who understand the connection between loving God and loving people, “are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34)
I admit that I am challenged by the expectation to “love” people I don’t even like or have been taught to mistrust. No one can love without God’s help, but we get to choose whether to accept that help.
Loaded question: Are we even interested in sharing God’s love with hurting people who don’t look like us, don’t worship like us, don’t vote like us, who are from people groups with a history of conflict with our own?
Or are we just clamoring to get back inside the comfort of our church buildings so we can “worship” the invisible God while refusing to show love for the neighbor right in front of us, maybe by doing something simple like wearing a mask in a pandemic?
A real hero sacrifices for the good of someone else. Sacrifice costs something. Are we willing to pay the price to really love?