Day 7: The Merciful Samaritan
God calls us to “love mercy” (Micah 6:8) but what does it mean? Several Hebrew and Greek words from the Bible are translated in English to “mercy” (Hebrew: “Chesed”, “Racham”, “Kapporeth”; Greek: “Oitkirnos”, “Eleemon.”) Each one describes the different facets of mercy: mercy can mean “to show compassion or forgiveness towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish,” “a blessing that is an act of divine favor,” or “compassionate treatment of those in distress.” The Hebrew word translated by mercy in Micah 6:8 is “Chesed” which is a word rich in meaning, and translated in other verses as “loving-kindness.”
Who should we show mercy to? Jesus answers this question in what is commonly known as the parable of “The Good Samaritan” but could be renamed the parable of the “merciful Samaritan.” To understand the controversy of this parable the historically deep divide between the Jews and Samaritans should be recognised. After the Assyrian army captured the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C, the Jewish people of Samaria intermarried with Assyrians. It is believed that their half-Jewish, half-gentile offspring became known as the Samaritans. Jews in the southern kingdom despised the Samaritans calling them “dogs” and “half-breeds” as the animosity between them was fuelled by both politics and religion. To a Jew, being called a Samaritan was a curse-word and many Jews would travel a longer route around Samaria to avoid contact with the Samaritans. For hundreds of years, there was segregation in place and the hostility between these people groups led to mocking and antagonising behaviour.
This fierce hatred for each other was the backdrop of the parable, making the idea of a “good” Samaritan an absurd concept to the Jews. While the injured Jew was overlooked by his own people the Samaritan did not allow prejudice to hinder his response. The Samaritan saw him, felt compassion for him, and went above and beyond to care for him. This merciful act was costly. The Samaritan sacrificed his time delaying his own journey, used his resources of oil and wine to bind up the Jews wounds, risked relationships as he broke both social and religious customs and spent his own money to pay for a bed at the inn.
Rescue came from the man a Jew would least expect it from. The Samaritan did this radical act of mercy for someone considered an enemy, who would probably not have done the same for him. Jesus finishes the parable with this call: “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) Similarly, we are called to express this attribute of God’s character: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) Choosing mercy is not an easy path but it is a worthy calling. As Christians, we must choose to cross over the lines of racial divisions and historical tensions to pursue reconciliation and healing. In doing so, we show genuine neighbourly love, sharing the love and mercy that we have graciously received from God.
As you consider God’s heart for diversity, what does mercy look like to you?
Pray and be honest with God about who you struggle to love; repent if you need to; ask God to help you understand His love and mercy towards you and to help you give it to others in return.
Pray for yourself or anyone you know who is struggling to forgive those that have caused them trauma through racism. Also pray for their healing, peace and the strength to take their pain to God.
Listen to the song For the one - Brian & Jenn Johnson and let it minister to you.