Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Semantics of Mercy and Grace (2)

(part 1)

How do you lose weight? Cut calories or increase activity. This lawyer’s question is like someone asking a personal trainer, when told they can no longer eat desserts, “What exactly is a dessert?” He wants to keep eating chocolate and not have it count against him. If we could somehow take a magic potion that would instantly make us have the ideal body weight, most of us would love the result (our health, look and the way we would feel) would be a big encouragement to maintain that health.

Similarly, we have been forgiven while we were in dead in our sin. As a result, our thankfulness in our forgiven situation should compel us to be merciful toward others. Jesus uses a story to illustrate this point.

Some people read The Good Samaritan as an elaborate allegory. The road is life, the robbers are sin, and the Samaritan is Jesus etc. etc. We don’t need to create elaborate allegories out of this story. It is clear and meaningful on its own. And Jesus was telling it for a specific purpose, that most of the allegorical approaches miss altogether.

The religious professionals in this story should be the most compassionate people in the world. They should understand their situation of helplessness, and feel a tremendous compassion towards others. The fact that they don’t is part of the point of the story. All religion does is lie to us and tell us we can fix our own dilemma. That leads to pride and the feeling that everyone is responsible for their own situation. “If this other man had just been ‘better’ he would not have had this problem. He deserves what he gets.”

By contrast, the Samaritan is moved when he sees the man’s suffering. He doesn’t stop there. He does whatever is in his power to help the man out. The Jewish audience of this story would have been shocked at this turn of events. They hated the Samaritans because they were a mixed race. Perhaps more importantly, they were hated because they did not worship God the way they were supposed to. They did not have the right religion.

(part 3)

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