Sunday, August 13, 2017

Excuses

It is perplexing that good, good people throughout history have died at the hands of assassins. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jospeh Smith, but foremost and most perplexing is Jesus Christ. Imagine the sorrow at the loss of a loved one, and then having to grasp the incomprehensible injustice of his death. I would think our modern day society, at the appearance of a man who could restore sight to the blind, bring balance to a troubled mind, and by the touch of his hand bring movement to the infirm, would be so esteemed, we would treasure and protect him.

The Pharisees, a group of pious, religious men were unsettled by this powerful stranger whom they perceived as a threat. A threat to what? we might ask...

Within the coldness of their hearts, they tried to disconcert, to provoke, to trick the Master. On this occasion, it was a lawyer who stood and asked Jesus, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

The Savior answered the man with his own question, "What is written in the law?"

The answer appeared to be an easy one the lawyer knew well, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself."

The Savior's approval was simple, "This do and thou shalt live."

The lawyer wanted clarification, and because of his inquiry (whether it was sincere, I do not know), we can thank him for the parable of the Good Samaritan. For then he asked of Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"

The parable has always been a pointed story--pointing inward. It heavies our hearts, we question our lives, we wonder, how many people have I passed by the wayside?

The story of the Jewish traveler who falls among thieves and is beaten almost to death, brings up so many questions. Why was he traveling alone on a dangerous road? A section of road between Jericho and Jerusalem was known as the Red Path because of perhaps its isolation that made robbing travelers easy. Why did the Levite, and a priest, pass him by? It's easy to disparage them for their cruelty, but were they worried for their own lives? If they did not hurry past, would they too fall victim? This concern is legitimate as I contemplate the recent story of a child who slipped into a raging river. Her mother jumped in as did another man. All three lost their lives. What would I have done? Would I have jumped or been a bystander? But wouldn't it have made sense not to jump into a swirling river?

One man discarded all the viable excuses. This certain man, a Samaritan, after hundreds of years of conflict, was despised by the Jews. Yet, when the disrespected man saw the injured man, he stopped, bound his wounds, found care, and paid for the care. We can not imagine what fortitude raced through his mind or if it even did. Perhaps he did not justify abandonment because systemic prejudice; maybe he did think twice, but in the end he overcame any hesitation. He saved a human life.

Author James E Talmage writes on this ancient story and as I came to the end of his commentary, I am struck by his conclusion: "When the Samaritan came along and saw the wretched state of the wounded man, he had no excuse for he wanted none."

The statement "for he wanted none," feels like a firebrand to my hip. Anytime I've hesitated, second guessed, let an opportunity pass, it was never for a good enough reason, but only found its weight because I wanted it to.

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