Read Luke 10:30-37
30 “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (NLT)
Brennan Manning was a Catholic priest and wrote wonderful books on the love and grace of God. He was also an alcoholic. He tells the story of the time he was homeless and destitute. One morning he lay in a drunken stupor in a shop entrance, ragged and bleary eyed. A young boy came up to him. His mother came running after the boy and covered his eyes with her hands. “Come away from that filth, don’t look at that filth.” And then Manning felt the woman’s shoe in his ribs.
That ‘filth’ was actually a follower of Jesus who had gone badly astray. A man of education and insight, a man who had blessed many in his time. But to that mother he was just a dishevelled bundle of rags beneath contempt.
A reminder to us that we can’t judge by appearances. That none of us was born an addict, an outcast, a criminal. Manning, like us all, had to take responsibility for his life. He couldn’t just blame the ‘system’. And he found strength later in the free grace of God which convinced him he was not filth.
Those who are not in such an unfortunate position can’t simply tell such an individual to pull themselves together. They do need the grace of God, but that grace finds expression in the merciful actions of others like us. Which is very much what Jesus was saying in this familiar parable. That bit of ‘filth’ is in need of care rather than contempt.