He drew a circle that shut me out
— Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!
Round tables are my favourite! Everyone sitting at a round table is equal and always there is room for one more chair. I was reminded of round tables at Bible study last week; we were studying the parable of The Good Samaritan.
It is the story of a nameless man who selflessly provides all that is needed to rescue someone beaten and left to die in a ditch. It is a story about social boundaries removed so God’s love and care can be set free. It is a story of radical response when facing the choice of indifference or active compassion.
The Samaritans in Jesus’ day were despised and ridiculed; they were considered the lowliest of all humanity. So, of course Jesus uses these very people to teach of God’s powerful grace and transformative love.
What makes the Samaritan good in this story is that he has every reason to respond to the hatred, cruelty and shame placed on him by others with much of the same, but doesn’t. Instead, his response is to extend a hand of welcome, lifting the broken man onto his donkey and walking him to where healing can begin. He doesn’t bother asking who the broken man is or whether this man is deserving of such help; he just helps. This is the most powerful part of the story. One who has every reason to respond with hatred but instead responds with love, this is where we find hope for the world.
Hope for the healing of humanity is found in those who refuse to be the hatred or cruelty in the world but instead respond to God’s call to be light, love and understanding. As written in 1 Peter 3:9, “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.”
True humility teaches that we all take our turn being the broken one in the ditch. The Good Samaritan reminds us “…of a merciful God who wants to bind up and heal all your hurts. Can you see this? You on the road – injured by the world and God as the one that picks you up….This God who acts as a stranger on the road will never judge you or your needs. This God pours His Mighty Mercy like oil and wine. If you will let Him do this…”. (Pastor John Bright)
When we face the cruelty of others may we see the pain they hold and understand it isn’t about us, instead may we respond with a quiet respect trusting God’s love has the power to heal us all.
As we light the first candle of Advent, the Candle of Hope, may we remember that hope is held in our response to the hardness of life; a response rooted in God’s healing love.