A couple thousand years ago, as Christ begins his journey to Jerusalem and to the cross, a pompous religious man told Jesus that if he loved God with everything he had, and loved his neighbor as himself-that would be enough to earn his way into heaven (Luke 10:25-28). Jesus-wanting to teach the man that its not the ones that “get everything right religiously” that are seen as righteous in God’s eyes- told him a story about an unlikely character (a Samaritan) who was more obedient to God than men who devote their entire lives to doing everything right-but miss the point of God’s grace and love given to them that they should bestow to others.
Here is my version of an updated, creative way to hear the story:
The Good “Samaritan”
I normally love doing business trips. I like the drive. I like hotels. I like being in new places. I was traveling for work to go to a week long seminar at the Convention Center in Philadelphia. It had been wonderfully profitable for our organization, and to celebrate, I had decided to stay in the city that night for drinks with some of our new legal partners. After some good laughs, and getting a bottle of their house wine to go, I was ready to head back to my hotel. It was getting late, and since my ride wanted to stay for a few more drinks, I decided to catch a cab and head back to the Upper East Side. Besides, checkout was at 10am tomorrow morning and I was ready to relay all the good news to all my higher ups via email from the comfort of my own home.
What happened next was much of a blur. To this day, I don’t’ know if I told the taxi driver the wrong street name, or if he was part of the plan, but somehow I ended up being dropped off somewhere near Carol Park in West Philadelphia. By the time I had gotten all my belongings out of the taxi and realized that I saw no sign of my hotel-the car was long gone. Dazed, buzzed, and frustrated I started walking down the street, hoping to find another driver. I heard feet behind me. Heavy feet. Quite a few pairs of feet. My heart was racing, but I blamed the alcohol and told myself to just keep moving. The faster I heard them move, the faster I moved my 4 inch heals.
I’ll spare you from all the gruesome details, but the long and short of it was, I got mugged. Praise God, that’s all that happened. One had a brick, another some sort of metal bar, and the third guy, the ringleader, was the one who used his hands. I am a fighter. I yelled and screamed and put up as much as a fight as I could. I was terrified of being raped and murdered; I thought for sure they weren’t going to stop at my purse. I am not sure what stopped them. It sure wasn’t me-their crowbar and brick left me bloody and helpless, and there sure wasn’t any outside help stopping them. For whatever reason, they left. And I couldn’t move. I was pretty sure I had broken ribs, my jaw was dislocated, and I was loosing blood fast. I knew I was going to die if I didn’t get up out of that ally.
It was probably going on two in the morning, but I looked up and could see some activity in a window above me. I called out as loudly as I could for help. Though it was probably only seconds, it seemed like an eternity until a middle aged white woman popped her head out of her window. She looked down at me, we made eye contact, her gold chain rosary sparkled. Then she slipped her head back in her window and slid the window shut. I still couldn’t’ move. I don’t know if it was because my body was in shock, or my spirit was. Did that woman really just shut her window? I blacked out for a while, I don’t know how long, it still wasn’t light out, and I knew I didn’t have much time. I crawled to the edge of the ally and lay there, trying my hardest to not let me body shut off. My head on the pavement, I heard footsteps. Too weak to get up I just opened my eyes a sliver-just enough to see a pair of shiny black men’s dress shoes coming closer to me. I closed my eyes and opened them again; only to this time find the shoes further away, instead of closer. They had quickly crossed the street and I was beginning to lose hope. The next thing that I opened my eyes to, was a long pair of legs, covered in holey, fishnet stockings. I could hear a loud voice asking me questions, but I couldn’t answer anything. I heard snippets of what she said-something about getting blood in her car, and something else about my hotel. But I quickly blacked out.
The next time I woke up, I was in a hospital bed. White sheets, white walls, white blanket, white robe, and then a visitor-the same fishnet stockings, 7 inch bright red heals, little red and gold sequence dress, and makeup on her face for days. She smiled at me, introduced herself, her profession as a prostitute, and our story. She found me on the side of the road right after she got off work a couple of nights ago. She saw my nametag incredibly still attached to my coat jacket, that though torn and bloody, still showed what agency I worked for-a law office from Pittsburg. She put me in her car, my blood staining her new seat covers, and took me into the hospital. While I was there she called my office, informing them of what happened, acquired my hotel information, and got my bags to be delivered to the hospital. Each night when she goes in to work, she pays my hospital bill and then gives the nurses extra cash-saying that if I wake up and need anything, to make sure I get it .
So at this time, I might look at a religious, prideful man and ask, “In this story, who was being most God-honoring and obedient to Scripture? Who would have been more likely to “earn” their salvation, if anyone?” Well of course, it was the prostitute. Because, unlike all the other characters in the story, she was loving and sacrificing for someone who didn’t do anything to deserve such care from her. She was loving her neighbor. What a shot to the pride to say that, if based on works, a prostitute is closer to the gates of heaven than a man of the church.
If based on works.
But of course, redemption is not based on works, for no one is ever good enough to earn their salvation. That’s the gift and the beauty of the gospel. He who knew no sin became sin for us. We, unlike the woman in this story, put ourselves in this situation, and were dead. Not just mostly dead, (Princess Bride reference) but completely dead and unable to call out for help. In a way, Christ is the Ultimate Good Samaritan who though despised and rejected by men-this sinless Savior, seeing us dead in our sins, came out, saved us, and reconciled us to a healthy relationship with God.
Our lives should be a response to that payment. Our lives should be lived out of gratitude and love for the God who saved us and gave us everything so that we may rejoice in and be satisfied in Him. Thank God for the Good Samaritan, and his example of love and selflessness, but even more-thank God for Christ, the incredible gift of salvation, and the matchless beauty of grace.