Most will identify with the priest or the Levite and leave this passage feeling convicted, challenged and hopefully spurned into action to live on mission all the time, no matter the cost to their own person. But some are more arrogant and will readily identify with the Samaritan, thinking to themselves, "If that ever happened I would do the right thing."
Usually this is based on other external works of charity or kindness to others. But these acts don't normally involve any significant sacrifices on the part of the "philanthropist". Usually their level of service stops at the point of any discomfort.
In speaking of the difference between knowing of God and truly knowing Him, the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards writes:
"Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance."
He uses this analogy of honey:
There is a difference between knowing that honey is sweet by reading about it and knowing that it is sweet by actually tasting it yourself.
Do we ever have a true knowledge of what we would do if we were in the Samaritan's place? Not until it actually happens.
Well for many at our ministry center this past Saturday it did happen. As I pulled into the parking lot on Saturday Morning I passed by a homeless man apparently sleeping on the church premises. I hardly noticed him as I went into the building to prep for that evenings sermon. Later on more than 4 people came up to me to "alert" me that there was a man on premises and that I had to kick him off the property before our youth group service started. No doubt that countless others there that day had simply passed him by. I thought that if I waited long enough he might just go on his own and so I waited. But then it came time for service and so I begrudgingly went outside expecting to be met with resistance and attitude. But the man I encountered was the exact opposite. In fact he was absolutely compliant and understanding of the request. I talked with the man for a while about his life story and how he got to be where he was at that exact moment. I gave him some clothes and blankets that we had in the building and invited him to come back on Monday for some food, a shower and more clothes. As I began to walk away he didn't budge. So I asked if he needed any help getting up.
I could feel my Adam's Apple drop into my gut as I realized that his man had only been here all day because he could not get up. Flies encircled his entire body which was half clothed, smelled like feces and full of scabs. So I bear hugged him from behind and lifted him onto his feet and he went on his way.
As I walked back into the office I thought about how my soul is way more dirty than than that man's clothes. How could I be so selfish and let that man suffer in the heat all day because I thought someone else would take care of it. May it never be again. My prayer is that God would burn this memory into my skull that I won't ever forget.
I've tasted the honey but only after I had fooled myself into thinking that I knew what it tasted like already.