Dr Justine Toh, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, shares with us a personal reflection on the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, provoking us toward self-reflection and humility.
Why can’t you see us?
Have you ever felt invisible? Unseen? Discarded? Devalued?
In today’s video Brooke Prentis shares a powerful reflection, inviting us to see our neighbour who is hurting and who does not feel loved.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a person who was attacked, robbed and left half dead on the side of the road. Two different men come across the gravely injured person: a priest and a Levite (a member of the Israelite tribe who carried out special religious duties). Both of these men come face to face with the injured person but instead of helping, they cross the road and pass by. Help comes from a Samaritan. A Samaritan was the most unlikely hero: in Jesus’ cultural context, Jews and Samaritans despised each other. In Jesus’ telling of this story, he uses the Samaritan’s actions to illustrate what it really means to love your neighbour and live out the Kingdom of God.
The first two men in the story both belonged to the dominant religious culture. They were likely viewed as men of God. Why would they ignore such desperate need, when they were respected, holy people? What does this say to us about what it truly means to be God’s representatives on earth?
In this parable, Jesus gives a shocking illustration of what it means to love one’s neighbour. To love our neighbour sometimes means seeing the people and the need we would rather ignore. It requires us to face and experience discomfort. Yet in showing love to people who we may prefer to ignore, we discover the true nature of love and the freedom it brings.
Engaging with the Story:
Create some space this week to re-read the parable. When reading the parable imagine yourself in the story or teaching. Where would you stand? What do your surroundings look like? What can you smell or hear? What would you ask Jesus? Imagine yourself as the injured person, desperately hurting and close to death, yet ignored by two men of God. Imagine yourself as the priest and the Levite: what motivates them to ignore the suffering they are faced with? Imagine yourself as the Samaritan: one who is despised by Jews, yet acts to help someone in desperate need, making personal sacrifice to do so.
Reflect and Pray:
As human beings we often gravitate towards ways of thinking and behaving based on “in” and “out” groups: or “us” and “them”. This is a natural human tendency. However, it is something which Jesus calls us to acknowledge, face and move beyond. If you are challenged by this, firstly, take heart in knowing that the intent in Jesus’ challenge is not to create guilt and condemnation. As we honestly face our own biases and blind spots, Jesus lovingly invites us into abundant life. To be free to love in spite of any differences is to reflect the heart and nature of Jesus. It is freedom from the fear which drives the need to exclude those who seem different.
With this in mind, reflect on these questions:
Which neighbour do you need to see?
Which neighbour do you need to love?
Which neighbour do you need to be on the same road to walk with by giving your hand, your time, your resources, and your heart?
Thank God for his unending love for us. We are relentlessly pursued by a God who invites us into abundant life.
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Today's Reading: Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Brooke Prentis is a Wakka Wakka woman and an Aboriginal Christian Leader. Brooke is a speaker, writer, community pastor, and advocate, and is the Aboriginal Spokesperson for Common Grace and Coordinator of the Grasstree Gathering.
This series has been produced by Common Grace and Bible Society Australia.