Since last year, I have been working with the East Mountain Food Pantry - an organization that provides for the needs of up to 650 families in the East Mountains. In reflecting upon the work there and how I integrate my faith with the work of the pantry, I have been convicted in understanding the mission of mercy and what it means to the Christian believer. Luke 10:25-27 describes the radical parable of the Good Samaritan.
It's a familiar story to all of us yet how many of us actually take it to heart and fully grasp the meaning of it? Samaritans were the bitterest of enemies with the Jews. Yet, there along the Jericho road, it was a Samaritan who sacrificed personal safety, to show great deeds of mercy towards a bitter enemy and someone of a different race. Christ points to the parable of the Good Samaritan in answering the question, What must I do to inherit eternal life?
Tim Keller summarizes the parable in his book, Ministries of Mercy - Along the Jericho Road. He states that in this parable, the Lord directly attacks the complacency of comfortably religious people who protect themselves from the needs of others. After all, it was the priest and the Levite who passed by the injured Jewish person.
Christ calls us to love God and love our neighbor. The parable of the Good Samaritan clearly defines our neighbor as anyone at all--acquaintance, friend, next door neighbor, stranger or enemy. Scripture does provide us with some sense of priority in this matter with our first obligation being to family. However, it is clear from the parable of the Good Samaritan that we are to show mercy to all. Each of us individually can only do so much (after all, millions across the globe are suffering from hunger) and if you are like me, it's easy to become overwhelmed.
However, together as believers we have great power through the Holy Spirit to make a difference in the mission of mercy. We are all along the Jericho road surrounded by those in need whether in our backyard or across the globe. While we are saved only by God's grace, in the name of Christ, we can all serve and glorify his name through our works of mercy.