How Improving Samaritans influence other people toward the “Ideal Samaritan”

like JesusWe’ve covered a bunch of ground since we began our Good Samaritan talks. We’ve looked at how there is no more Ideal Samaritan than Jesus, how, in stark contrast to him we’re all pretty much Inadequate Samaritans with quite a replete repertoire of excuses for it, and then how we might get on a trajectory to become Improving Samaritans.

Finally, in light of all we’ve said, my question is, “Why we aren’t influencing our world toward our Savior Samaritan in a more powerful way?” 

Is it because we don’t have enough money or because they won’t let us have the 10 Commandments on courtroom walls or prayer in the public schools? Hmmm? Or could it possibly be because we’re not known for the kind of compassion for the oppressed and needy that befits followers of Jesus, our Savior Samaritan?

He didn’t say they’d see our good looks, but our “good works and glorify our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5). We have quite a large number of good-looking celebrity Christians and impressive church buildings, but neither are attracting droves of pre-christians into our ranks.

There’s no doubt that some Christians are so into social justice that their gospel is nothing but social. It has no spiritual quality there. Their churches are humanitarian institutions with a little Jesus thrown in for credibility. Nevertheless, I would argue that there is a balance of the social and the spiritual work of the Church.

“Social action without prayer and conversion to the Lord lacks power and the ability to produce long-lasting change in the socio-economic conditions of the poor. Likewise prayer and evangelism without social action leads to pietistic withdrawal from the realities of the human condition and an escape from social problems rather than a confrontation and challenge to change.” Father John Bettuolucci

What about the lawyer to whom Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan? Should we assume that by the end of his conversation with Jesus he was converted? As with most of the Jesus stories, we don’t know how it turned out. But when Jesus asked him who acted in the most neighborly way, the man answered, “The one who had mercy.” It sounds to me like the story at least gave him something to think about. Maybe a sliver of light entered his mind that day.

The selfless efforts of Samaritans tend to tenderize even the most obstinate souls. Works of compassion will often reduce people’s resistance to the gospel and accomplish infinitely more to point people toward God than all our placards of protest and angry letters to the editor put together. If we do what Jesus did maybe we’d get some of the same results Jesus got!

Early Christians lived out Jesus’ admonitions to practice a lifestyle of servanthood. It can be seen, for example, in the way they stood against infanticide. They didn’t lead marches on Rome or make contributions to sympathetic senators. They rescued babies who were left outside to die and adopted them into their own families. The highest concentration of victims were girls. The vast majority of people at the time were poor, and having too many girls was perceived as an economic liability. By faith, many Christians took on these “liabilities” and raised them as their own.

Tim Otto writes: “Christians in the second and third centuries cared for those sick with the plague. Rather than fleeing the plagued cities, Christians saw it as their duty to stay and take care of the sick. Modern medical experts estimate that simple nursing for plague victims (providing food, water, warmth) could have cut the mortality of epidemics by two-thirds or more. Christians helped each other and their neighbors survive in numbers that must have seemed miraculous. (And their occasional deaths witnessed to the strength of their faith that death was not final). Many converted, attracted by the strong ethic of care and mutual support that Christians lived out.”

If you’ve been wanting to see more people to come to Jesus and you’re in the hunt for a more effective evangelistic technique I propose that you consider the one Jesus used. Love and serve people – especially under-served and almost never loved people – till they ask you why. “Preach the gospel at all times,” said Francis of Assisi, “and when necessary use words.”

“Go and do likewise!”

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