Houston and Its Amazing Good Samaritans September 02 2017

(Part of BCF’S blog series: “Society, Selflessness, and the Scriptures")

There are many figures of speech we use today that have their roots in the Scriptures.  Examples would be:

  •  “They are like the blind leading the blind.” In other words, they are not very knowledgeable in this subject area, yet they are trying to teach others.  (based on Jesus’ statement about the religious leaders in Matthew 15:14).
  • “He fell on his sword.”  In other words, he did something wrong and took responsibility for it, and the blame.  (based, in part, on the incident where Saul committed suicide by falling on his sword (I Samuel 31:4).

But perhaps there is no figure of speech so well-known and so powerful as saying that someone is a Good Samaritan.  We instantly understand that phrase.  The idea of a Good Samaritan as one who goes out of his way to help the helpless is widely understood, even by those who know very little about the Bible.  So much so, that we even have “Good Samaritan laws” that seek to protect from liability those who try to help someone else.  These are people who take risks that they don’t really need to take, but they do so out of care for those in need.

I heard reference to a Good Samaritan just a couple weeks ago who stopped on a freeway near where I work to help a stranded motorist and her children.  He was killed when a drunk driver plowed into their car. Like the Good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:30-37), today’s Good Samaritans embody people who do not need to help, nor are they expected to help, but they do so anyway, even sometimes at great risk to themselves.

Enter Hurricane Harvey and the City of Houston, Texas.  We have heard a lot of references to Good Samaritans throughout the Gulf Coast in the last week – neighbors helping neighbors, people bringing their boats and rescue equipment from other states, people being carried on shoulders from their homes and being given food, clothing, and shelter elsewhere.  As difficult, massive, challenging, and long-lasting as this situation is, we have seen a virtually unprecedented turnout of Good Samaritans, and we only know about a tiny fraction of them.

Just this morning I saw a report of Good Samaritans in Houston with their own boat rescuing a number of people.  Sadly, the rescuers ended up in water near a live electrical line, and a couple of them perished.  We will never know all the stories of what risks were taken, what sacrifices were made, when neighbor helped neighbor and stranger helped stranger in response to this natural disaster.

Although we are very familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, what is also interesting is Jesus’ conversation with the lawyer that immediately preceded the parable.

“And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’  And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law?  How does it read to you?’ And he answered, ‘You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.’ And He said to him ‘You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.’ But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:25-29)

That was a great opening for Jesus to provide this wonderful word-picture of what true love for neighbor really means.  Jesus didn’t necessarily have to specify the culture or background of the person who helped the man who was robbed and left for dead.  But he chose a Samaritan, the “second-class” citizen of that day, according to those who were of pure Jewish descent.  Jesus used the “lowly Samaritan” as the example of one who had compassion, making the point that the acceptability of love is not based on social class, or on how much you know, but by what action you take.  In fact, the pride of the Jewish leaders was a major barrier to their demonstrating Godly love.

In this case the Samaritan got dirty, used his own resources, accepted inconvenience by delaying his trip, and made sure other people were not inconvenienced (like the innkeeper to whom the Samaritan provided funds to take care of the man in need).  It is no wonder that this compelling example of love has made it not only into our secular vocabulary but also into the law.  This makes it particularly ironic that it was a lawyer who first asked the question.

As said earlier, examples of Good Samaritans abound in Texas, Louisiana, and throughout the surrounding states.  Sadly, we also see the ugly side, with looting and price-gouging that authorities are trying to get under control.  So in the same event, we see the depravity of human nature on one hand and the selfless, sacrificial demonstrations of love on the other. While it would have been physically much easier if hurricane Harvey had not happened, it has opened up many opportunities for believers and churches across the U.S. to demonstrate the love of Jesus.

While most of us are not present on the scene, we all have “little Harveys” around us.  People who are in need, desperate, and often responsive to seeing the love of Christ in action.  May the Lord help us to recognize these little Harveys and step forward to demonstrate that love.  And by the way Texas and Louisiana, we are continuing to pray for you!

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Steve Smith