Love & Mercy

by Robert Eckert, Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church

Would it serve the world well if people were less concerned with being right and more concerned with being kind?

I posted a comment recently on the Facebook page of something called WretchedTV to express my distaste for what I’d seen of their videos on YouTube. I inadvertently provoked a fan of WretchedTV who unleashed a diatribe against all things United Methodist (I had identified myself as a UM pastor) and proceeded to lecture me on his perception of the only correct answer if the question is “how does one get to heaven?” I chose the path of passive aggression, smugly quoting Jesus saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

American culture, if not world culture, is well into major changes in the rules of the game of self-expression thanks to the instant access and anonymity of various social media outlets. More than ever we say whatever we want whenever we want in language that presumes moral authority and communicates uncompromising, albeit unfounded, certainty on most every topic under the sun.

What could be tools for informed, thoughtful, respectful, productive dialogue on any number of issues are too often used to deliver close-minded, arrogant, goading pronouncements that serve only to reveal our ignorance.

The chances are good that I and my temporary pen pal share some important common ground, but we never made it that far. The chances are good we had something to offer each other, insights from which we could have mutually benefited, but we never made it that far. The chances are good that two of us, both people who desire to follow Jesus, could have experienced a moment of fulfilling Jesus’ command to his disciples to love one another, but we never made it that far. We both simply wanted to be right, and each of us was convinced he was.

I can’t speak for him, but the unsettled spirit that was mine after our exchanges told me that our only contribution to the world in our exchanges was a little bit more dissension and a little bit less unity.

That might be what makes the story known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan so compelling and so important.

After Jesus had said that there are no higher priorities than loving God and loving one’s neighbor, he was asked “who is my neighbor?” He proceeded to tell of a man accosted by thieves while traveling alone. The man was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. A couple of religious types happened along and each steered clear of the man who was clearly in need of help. Then a Samaritan, which is to say, a man who in the expectations of Jesus’ audience was the least likely and least welcome source of aid, came along and tended to the man’s wounds, gave him water to drink, and took him to a place where he would be cared for until he had fully recovered.

Jesus asked those who heard the story, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” They answered, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Jesus’ reply was, “Go and do likewise.”

I wonder what Jesus would have said to me and the other person involved in that Facebook exchange I described above if we had asked him to step in as referee.