The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most familiar, and one of the more referenced stories of Jesus, that all wraps around the question “Who is my neighbor?” Which is, without doubt, a question for the ages. One that peals through time and sinks deep into our hearts today.
And depending on who you are, or how you’re wired, often dictates how far “Who is my neighbor?” reaches.
I am an introvert. It’s who I am, and I’ve come to embrace it. There are many ways to differentiate between introverts and extroverts, but one of the truest indicators is this: Introverts are drained by human contact and recharged by time alone. Extroverts are drained by time alone and recharged by human contact.
As a pastor, I love my time on Sunday mornings. The five hours between 7:30 and 12:30 are my absolute favorite hours of the week, I love being around people, but on Sunday afternoons, I am toast. Every Sunday afternoon is nap time for me, because Sunday mornings drain me. Other pastors are invigorated by Sunday mornings and find their most productive or creative work on Sunday afternoons.
I am an introvert, it’s how I’m wired, so—for me—my neighbor is more likely to be somebody that I can share more than just simple passing words.
I think of an event four years ago, where I met a lot of strangers. It was at my son’s Under Armour baseball tournament in Florida (January baseball in Florida at the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training complex? Count me in!).
I spent most of four days introducing myself to a lot of dads from all over the country. Mostly from the south. I’ve gotten pretty good at cold introductions. I ask a lot of questions, which is always an easily way to get conversations rolling. But for me, it’s work. As an introvert, it doesn’t come naturally. But what I’ve noticed is that very few people ask questions in return. In fact, among many other questions, I asked nine different fathers what they did for a living. Only one returned the favor. Only once was I able to identify myself as a Lutheran pastor.
I was knee deep in one conversation with a dad from Arkansas, but I had a really hard time understanding anything he said. After about three, “I’m sorry, what was that?” questions, I just gave up. Nodded my head a lot and tried to pick out key words from amid the myriad of vocabulary malfunctions. His name was Robert, and at noon, he said, he “ett” lunch. “Ett”, I learned, is the past tense of “eat”. I learned that he works in “all”. All of what? This one took me a while, but I finally managed to discover that he works in an “oil” field.
And at one point he talked about “goin’ frog giggin’”. I don’t know what that means.
I don’t want to know what that means.
I am ashamed to admit that in the course of this quant conversation, I started feeling that I wanted to get out of that conversation. It was a brief feeling. Brief because I knew how wrong it was. And I literally prayed in a quick instant that the Lord would push that discomfort away. That’s not who I am or who I’d ever want to be.
CS Lewis, in his book “The Weight of Glory” once said this: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” Robert, from Arkansas, a man who works in an “all” field and goes frog giggin’ is a man into whom Almighty God breathed the breath of life. This is not an ordinary man. This is somebody with whom God was pleased to make with his own hands, and breathe from His own life-giving lungs the breath of life.
I can’t help but notice that in the ministry of the Son of God, in those amazing three and a half years He “pitched His tent” (John 1:14) among us, that His softest side showed most among those who were looked down upon. The lowly. The hapless. He was gentle with the anxious. Merciful with adulterers. Talkative with Samaritan women. Demonstrative with the untouchable. Attentive to beggars. Welcoming of those who should be seen and not heard.
These were they who were most likely to forget the remarkable truth that “The Spirit of God has made (them), and the breath of the Almighty gives (them) life.” (Job 33:4).
Understand, this is not a natural knowledge of the heart. Left alone, the heart creates only those inner drives that produce all of “evil, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These”, the bible says, “are what defile a person” (Matt 15:17). When Jesus stumbled upon, sought out, or summoned the underprivileged, He was swift to bless and quick to heal, and by doing so, He restored His creation. Every miracle was a glimpse of the glory of Paradise… the place where the Spirit of God made us, and the breath of the Almighty gave life.
There are no ordinary people. If God breathed the breath of life, there is no shortness of breath from our Mighty Maker. And although the sin of Adam has wreaked havoc on our original nature, God still breathes. And life is still extraordinary, no matter what…
There is a reason that Jesus began that amazing tent-pitching among us in the womb of a sinful, flesh-and-blood nobody (“handmaiden”- Luke 1:48, KJV). Because we become extraordinary living beings there, knit together, known by God, breathed into. But it’s also there that sin corrupts the design. So, for Jesus to save us—because of the Father’s great love—He had to save all of us. Walking the same road. Breathing the same air. Feeling the same temptations. Living the same life. Every part. Beginning at the beginning. This is how we know He saved us completely. And this makes you one extraordinary human being. In fact, you have never talked to a mere mortal.
I had a great time in Florida watching my son play baseball in January under clear blue skies and 70 degrees. This introvert met a lot of interesting people. And I asked a lot of open ended questions to get conversations rolling. I asked nine fathers what they did for a living. Only one of them asked me what I did.
His name was Robert, and he works in an “all” field in Arkansas.
And he is an extraordinary man.