As I read this passage, the words of John spring to mind when he said,
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (I John 3:18)
We see this in the “Good Samaritan.” How did he love in deed and truth?
First, he overcame the prejudices of his own culture. One of the most shocking things to any Jew listening to this story was that it was probably Jews that beat up this man, and Jews, a priest and Levite no less, that refused to help this man in need. But a Samaritan, someone who was absolutely loathed by the Jews for his mixed racial and religious background, sees the need of this Jew, and his compassion overpowers any feelings of prejudice he might have.
Which leads to the second point, his compassion led to action. It’s one thing to look with sorrow on one who is hurting. It is another thing altogether to actually reach out and touch that person. What did he do?
He went to this man. (34a)
He soothed this man’s hurt. (34b)
He went out of his way to minister to this man’s need, taking him to an inn, and then caring for him through the night. (34c)
He even used his own resources to take care of this man. (35)
And Jesus tells us as he told the expert in the law, “Go and do likewise. Have mercy on those that you see in need around you.”
It’s so easy, though, to make excuses as to why you can’t. You’re too busy. You probably couldn’t help even if you wanted to. Or you’ve got more “important things to do.”
That’s probably what the priest and Levite thought. Perhaps they thought he might be already dead, in which case, they might become ceremonially unclean (according to God’s law) if they touched him, making it impossible to carry out their duties at the temple. And so these “duties” overcame any pity or compassion they may have had for the man.
Or maybe they just thought, “It’s not my responsibility. I’m no doctor. What can I do?”
Whatever their excuse, they forgot the words that God had spoken to Hosea.
I desire mercy, not sacrifice. (Hosea 6:6)
How about you? What do you do when you see others in need? Do you see them, but then walk by. Do you pray, but fail to go to them and actually do what you can to meet their needs? Do you make excuses for why you don’t go to them.
Let us live lives of mercy, remembering that that’s the kind of heart God wants to see in us. Let us not simply love with words or with tongue, but in deed and truth.