Two dead birds, a flat and half a heart

This morning my kids were ready for school and wanted some caffeine to help them through the day. I wasn’t ready on time and forgot I needed gas so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone; get gas and a handy-dandy Starbucks drink in a bottle for each of them.

I pulled into the gas station and had my daughter, who is learning how to drive, pump the gas.  One bird dead.

My son followed me into the station to pick the drinks.  However, the lines were long and all the bottles were gone!  They only had the King Kong sized Starbucks quad-venti-more sugar and caffeine than a hippo could handle-drinks so I passed.

We drove down the road toward the school and stopped at another convenience store. Starbucks purchased.  Two birds dead, two stones.

When we pulled in we noticed the car next to us had a severely damaged tire.  After coming from the store it was evident the young men, who may have been students from overseas, were unsure of what to do.

Being the fixer-upper kind of guy (insert smirking laughter here) I offered some help. They didn’t know if they had a spare or a jack or where they might be located.  I explained they were normally found in the trunk and after some digging, we found both items.  It was getting late but I showed them where to put the jack and how to remove the lug nuts which were quite tight.

Close to where we were parked was our local tire shop, Ron’s Tire in Tempe (shameless plug, they have always been great to my family and me).  I told them they could go there to get some help and be treated fairly.  Both young men were grateful for the help and thanked me profusely.

I am such a good guy.

I drove my kids to school but thought I might follow up with the tire and help out a bit more if they needed it.  I altered my route and drove by the convenience store and noticed they were gone.  Just down the road I noticed the traffic was slowing and behold, the car with the trashed tire was limping to Ron’s Tire.  We pulled into the parking lot at the same time and they were surprised to see me when I got out of the car.  I went into the tire shop and greeted the guy behind the counter and explained the situation. Typically, he was happy to help and assured my he would take care of everything.  I said my goodbyes and received more thanks from the young men.

I am such a good guy.

Feeling a bit better about myself and the situation I drove off ready to start the day the way I had intended.

On Sunday, the Gospel reading was from Luke chapter 10.  It was the passage of the Good Samaritan. In it an expert in the Law (Jewish law...over 600 of them!) asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Jesus asked him how he read it to which the man replied love God and love your neighbor.  Jesus replied that if he does this he will live. The expert pressed further asking “and who is my neighbor?” to which Jesus told a parable.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

I was mulling this passage over during the entire morning.  Hadn’t I done a good thing? Didn’t I do more than most people?  Weren’t they thankful?  The answer to all these things is yes.  However, this is only part of what the Gospel passage talked about.  The Samaritan didn’t pick the guy up and take him to the inn and call it good.  He went further.  He paid for whatever needs the beaten man may have.  Further, those who were supposed to reveal God’s Kingdom didn’t care for their neighbor in any way.  One was serving God in the Temple, the other was serving God’s people.  They wouldn’t want to become ‘unclean’ by touching this man.  They couldn’t be inconvenienced.

What if I, knowing better, only stop with some of the Gospel?  What if I only allow Christ’s love to touch my heart to the point of the Inn?  Isn’t that a half-hearted Gospel?  What would happen if I do exactly what Jesus says and care for people the way the parable suggests?

After considering this, I called the tire shop and told the man behind the counter I would like to pay for whatever costs the young men might incur.  He thanked me and told me they were looking for a tire for them.  In a few minutes I got a call back to let me know they had placed a spare tire on the car and the young men, who may not have understood what was happening, had thanked them and left.

I really needed this today.  I needed to be challenged by the words of Jesus.  It is so easy for me to do the kind thing and stop short.  I often live half of the Gospel.  The bit I leave untouched is the bit that costs me more than what I want to pay.

It is easy to write a check and massage our guilt.  It is easy to give our time and not our money. The thing I like about the Good Samaritan passage is that it presses in on both.  

There is no room for halfhearted love in the Samaritan story and there is no room for it in our story either.  

It would be like asking my kids to clean their room and them only cleaning half of it.  Is the room clean?  No.  Did they do what I asked.  No.  And I don’t give out participation trophies.  Part of the problem with Christianity in North America is we have made the Gospel livable; attainable; like it doesn’t cost us our lives to believe it and live it out.

Can you imagine what your community, city, state and our country might look like if Christians took this passage seriously?  How would your heart be different if you allowed the Gospel to go beyond the inn?  These are just a couple of the questions this morning brought my way.

Jesus did for me what the Samaritan did for the traveler.  Because of this, I can do it for others.  Maybe you needed this today as well.

© Bob Fabey