Lawyer's Parable - Deleted Scenes

Wow - it's been quite a long time since I've entered a blog here. Normally I could've counted on a couple of "deleted scenes" entries but I just haven't preached that much these last couple of months. The couple of sermons I have done haven't had unused material. But this last sermon had plenty! This last sermon was on the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Usually, when I post a blog on a past sermon, it is to include ideas that didn't make it into the 'final cut.' And while that's also the case here, this "Deleted Scenes" blog post will include some self-evaluation of the sermon itself.

I'm currently finishing up a course in preaching (the fancy word is "homiletics;" say it to yourself - it's a fun word to say: "haw-mil-et-iks") that I'm doing remotely through my school, Western Seminary. So, yes, I've done over a full year of vocational ministry and preaching without formal training. Now that I'm finishing up the course, I'm sensitive to several areas regarding my own preaching. So some of these comments reflect that.

As I get into trying to present the parable of the Good Samaritan, I'm confronted with the "problem" that the parable is so well known and beloved that it's really tough to say anything interesting about it that has not already been said. But, I then realize, there are plenty of people, even here at Lakeside Bible Chapel, that haven't had the opportunity to hear a sermon on this parable, and many others who - as do we all - continue to benefit by being challenged by that which we know so well. It is said that teaching is "telling them something they don't know" while preaching is "telling them to live out what they already know." In that spirit, I take up this parable.
During the sermon preparation, I was constantly confronted with these questions: "What is it that we need to know?" and "What do we need to do?" I, with help from Darrell Bock, realized that the thing to know was that God demands that our love for neighbor have no limitations. But the nagging thing was Jesus' use of the Samaritan as his hero. What was Jesus trying to communicate there? Well, as has often been pointed out by commentators and preachers, there was extreme emnity between Jews and Samaritans. This is not only what your favorite preachers have told you, but is demonstrated in scripture. We see the beginnings of Samaria in 1Kings 12 when the Kingdom was divided, north and south, between "Isarel" and "Judea." Israel created an official and competing religious system. Then, after a long time and several warnings by God, they were punished and judged. When we think of the "Ten Lost Tribes of Israel," that's the group that we're refering to. The "lost" word doesn't refer to the thought that they went wandering around looking for a new homeland - which is what the Mormons believe without a shred of reliable evidence - but that they were "lost" to posterity: that they ceased to exist as a people. That, friends, is a horrible judgment! And that is the price they paid for their unrepentant idolatry. The lesson, if I may be so bold, from those lost people is that if you continue to resist God's calls to repentance, you will die. The New Testament parallels that thought when Paul reminds the church in the city of Rome that, 'what you earn by sin is death' (Romans 6:23).
This is a critique of my message that is good to insert here: I have not yet learned to recognize when I might say something and it will be distracting to the audience. For example, it was pointed out to me that I used the word "hate" a lot during the message. "Hate" is a very powerful word. Now my intention was for people to be grabbed by the emotional force of Jesus' story - which I belive is very much there. However, I forgot that the rest of the people in the room have not had the 'luxury' that I've had of thinking about this parable for two months and working through all the emotional reactions to it as I have. Therefore, I came off using the "hate" word in a seemingly cavaier way. I continue to grow in this area.
[Regarding the question of 'what do we need to do:'] If love is not limited by any excuse, then this parable seems to tell us something much more difficult. We must allow active love to cross over our barriers of prejudice, bigotry, resentment, and even rights of vengeance  As to vengeance  I've said elsewhere that the Bible is pretty clear that vengeance is none of our business. "'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' says the Lord" (quoted in Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). We have no rights to vengeance! Strike that - actually, we do. The only act of vengeance that God allows us is this one tool: kindness. "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you." (Proverbs 25:21-22). And that is *exactly*, seems to me, what Jesus is suggesting in this parable. We need to be kind to our enemies. We need to perform acts of love to those we hate.
There are all sorts of people we hate. Some of those feelings we have are so strong that we don't consciously recognize them at all. We repress our feelings because we know that those feelings are wrong, sinful, and destructive. I'll tell you about a hatred I have that I recognized a few years back. I hate men that beat up their wives. I have a visceral, irrational, extremely negative emotional reaction when I hear about that. I don't even know where it comes from. There is no abuse in my family, there was none of that between my or Barb's parents. But I will tell you this, if a guy comes in for pastoral counseling and tells me he's beating on his wife, at this point in my life, I have to politely refer him to somebody else. My 'hatred' is just too strong.

Now my hatred is irrational: my belief in the regeneration that is available through Jesus Christ tells me that what this man needs is Jesus. Yet, right now, I am so repulsed that I cannot - yet - bring myself to minister to that man's needs. Though, I will say that God continues to work in my heart over this matter. I remind myself that God has forgiven me much and I must entrust that man's life to Jesus for redemption.
The hatred that the Jews and Samaritans had for each other was, yes, at some level 'justifiable.' Sure, the Samaritans were indeed heretics and acted like Esau to deny their birthright. Additionally, the Jews were pretty smug about their supposedly iron-clad relationship with Yahweh. They each had 'reasonable' gripes towards each other. It is said that the long-standing historical feud between the Hatfields and McCoys had some basis - but the basis was about who owned a pig. Most hatred is irrational! The interesting thing that Jesus does here is he * acknowledges* the actual hatred that exists. Yes, Jews hate Samaritans. That's a fact. It is not right, but it does exist. So he uses the Jews' existing bigotry to make the point even more firmly. Jesus does occasionally use startling and unexpected things to make his points.

When we think about our own "Samaritans," I'm not suggesting that our hatreds are objectively justified or justifiable. But they do exist. They subjectively seem like completely appropriate attitudes to have. That why we sometimes need to dig around to find them.

[Here I could've named some of our prejudices: politics, religion, causes. Instead I tried to capture that with the retelling of the parable. The idea was to try and get traction with people's unacknowledged 'hatreds.' One feedback that I received was that when I told that parable, it could've been very uncomfortable for a visiting Muslim, homosexual, or cult member to realize that the room was full of people who hated them! That was a very legitimate critique. I probably should've said more about how such hatreds are not right.]
[I really goofed up the sermon in this way. I should've put this next section in. As it stands below, it could've been developed better, but you can see where I was going with it. I probably could've cut out the Lawyer part and put this in. {Smack} is the sound my my hand hitting my forehead.]
Love like this - doing kindnesses to our enemies and those that we despise - is Very Hard. Let's not kid ourselves. It is impossible for people to do that well in the long term.
That's the point. God has enemies. Everyone in this room was or even still may be an enemy of God. I've been thinking a lot in the last year about this idea in Romans 5 that we were enemies of God. Ephesians 2 says that we were children of God's wrath. Yet the very next verse says that because of God's rich mercy he loved us. God loves his enemies! And God actively acted to bless his enemies. Jesus, in his love for us, endured torture and death that we might receive every spiritual blessing. God acted in love towards his enemies. Jesus acted in love towards his enemies. God's standard of holiness is himself. He expects us to love our enemies.
I can't. I just can't do that!
Except for this: Jesus changed me. I'm not the same guy as I was before. It is now possible for me to love my enemies. I don't do it often or very well. But as I follow Jesus more closely, I find that I can love my enemies. And that would be impossible if it were not for the re-creating work that Jesus did in my life when I became a Christian.