Today, many Christians around the world heard the story of the Good Samaritan preached in church. My father was one of the preachers sharing God’s word for today – and this is an excerpt of his sermon.
Mercy! Luke 10:25-37
Run! Go away! Leave this place, now! These commands have been given multiple times to an untold number of people as a warning that they need to quickly leave where they are to avoid physical harm or even death. As a result of these urgent warnings to flee, many thousands of people have emigrated from their homes to new lands or countries where they have put down roots and become part of the fabric of a new society.
The United States has seen multiple waves of immigrants over the centuries that came to our shores to avoid the potato famine in Ireland, the anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany that led to the Holocaust, and many other causes. Often these immigrants or refugees, for that is indeed what they were, found a land that was not as welcoming as it could or should have been as our sinful nature often has a NIMBY attitude, that refugees be dealt with somewhere else and “not in my back yard” or community. Unfortunately, even our own country that was founded on principles derived from Scripture has at times caused the formation of refugees due to our treatment of the Native Americans who were here before us, and the enslavement of people who “didn’t look like us”, among other events.
This process of refugee formation continues today at multiple locations around the globe, including wars in various Islamic countries, famine in parts of Africa, along with a lack of economic opportunity in South and Central America. Throughout history, both those who were refugees and those who caused them to become refugees have turned to their god in an attempt to ensure they would receive eternal life, in spite of their ongoing attempts to attain temporal advantages at the expense of others.
O Lord, You are always Merciful and willing to help us in our times of need. Help us to reflect Your love and mercy to those around us, who are all our neighbors, at all times, even when it is not convenient or those in need are perceived as our enemies.
You can read the entire story in Luke 10:25-37, but here’s the summary:
A lawyer asks Jesus, “who is my neighbor” in an attempt to find a loophole in the Jewish law, “love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus tells the story of a man traveling a dangerous road between Jericho and Jerusalem, where a nefarious group robbed and beat a traveler, leaving him injured on the side of the road to die. A priest passed by, but did not want to make himself ‘unclean’ by helping. A Levite, or priest assistant, also passed by the injured man, but was afraid that he would also be robbed if he took time to help. Finally, a well-to-do Samaritan was travelling the route and had compassion on the injured traveler, taking time and money to care for the injured man.
After the story, the lawyer admits to Jesus that the Samaritan was the one who had been a true neighbor to the injured traveler, because he had been the one to show mercy. Jesus’ response was to instruct all listening that they were also to show mercy to everyone, even those who were different nationalities or held different religious beliefs. This instruction was also given to us as we too are to be merciful to all people, even those who suddenly appear in our community, including those we had previously classified as our enemies, as the Jews had classified the Samaritans.
Our natural unwillingness to show mercy is just one of the many sins that we commit each day, which is why we need the Savior who came to earth for the sole purpose of living the sinless life we are unable to live and then took our punishment upon Himself, suffering the punishment and death we deserve for all our sins. When this Savior lives within us as a result of the faith freely given to us by God, we will joyfully imitate Him in showing mercy to those around us. Showing mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves is also contained in our Old Testament Lesson for today from Leviticus where we are instructed to provide for the poor and sojourner, which includes travelers, immigrants, and refugees by providing a portion of our bounty to them.
During this election year there is much discussion in the press and from the candidates of how to “deal with” the issues of immigration, both legal and illegal, as well as refugees. Regardless of political decisions, each of us here should show mercy and support the church in its efforts to show mercy to those who have suffered from natural or political disasters and become displaced from their homes. Among other projects, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is assisting our partner church, the German Free Lutheran Church, or SELK, in ministering to the thousands of Syrian refugees that have flooded into Germany during the last couple of years.
As a result of the work of the SELK, where tens of thousands receive care for their physical needs, over a thousand Muslim refugees have become Christians.
Although the debate will continue as to the number of refugees to be allowed into our country from multiple areas, our task as children of the Heavenly Father is to show mercy to each of them, assisting them with their physical needs while proclaiming the Love of Christ to them through our words and actions.
Although most people will agree that we should always show mercy to others, few will actually put it into practice. Each of us have probably passed up multiple opportunities to assist those in need over the years for what we perceived at the time to be legitimate reasons, yet we are to be imitators of Christ who is always willing to help us each time we call upon Him.
Although few of us will travel the world to show mercy to others, each of us are commanded by our Lord to show mercy to those we come into contact with on a daily basis. We are to share our bounty with them to provide healing of their wounds of body and soul, irrespective of what their nationality is, what their race or gender is, or what their religious beliefs are. When we show mercy for those who are displaced for any reason, we are imitating Christ who lives within us and witnessing our faith to all those around us. My prayer is that we will willingly and joyfully show mercy to others at every opportunity. Amen.
Thank you to Deacon Ronald C. Nieman, of the Michigan District of the Lutheran-Church, Missouri Synod, for this guest post. Full sermon was originally preached at Cedar Crest Lutheran Church, White Lake, MI on July 10, 2016.