The Good Samaritan
One of the most beautiful of the parables, those simple yet forceful word pictures with which Christ Jesus illustrated the truths he taught, is that of the good Samaritan. Its direct, tender appeal was brought forth in response to the question of the lawyer who, "willing to justify himself," demanded, "Who is my neighbour?" In the silence of a listening crowd one can almost hear the mental conflict as error, stirred and enraged, sought to entangle the calm yet unfaltering Jesus, whose understanding of the ever-presence of God's kingdom protected not only himself, but all those seekers of the light who eagerly awaited the reply of him who spake as "never man spake."
It was typical of his courage and insight that the Master, surrounded by Pharisaical intolerance and faced with the blind opposition of ignorance and fear, rebuked the pride of his listeners by choosing one of a despised race, a Samaritan, as an example of brotherly love, as a type of compassionate thought, expressed in a tender, practical, healing message to mankind. The good Samaritan,—such simplicity! We are told in John's gospel that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans. Yet the Samaritans expressed many good qualities, as witness the woman of Samaria to whom the Christ was revealed at Jacob's well; and, also, in the case of the ten lepers who were healed, the one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan.
As we turn to the sweet, familiar words in the tenth chapter of Luke's gospel, we read that "a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead." Let us pause a moment. Have not we all, at some time, and perhaps often in our journeyings, been overtaken by thieves (the suggestions of material sense, the false beliefs of the fleshly or carnal mind), and seemed to be robbed of much or of all that we had? The treasures of Truth, among which are courage, faith, spiritual understanding, integrity of thought, clearness of vision,—yea, health itself,—these, it seemed, had been wrested from us, and we had been left, stripped and unable to rise, half dead by the roadside. Popular theology, typified in the parable by a priest, with a material sense of religion, cold and formal, passed by on the other side. Next, in the Bible story, came the Levite; and he too passed by on the other side.
On page 590 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy "Levi (Jacob's son)" is defined as, "A corporeal and sensual belief; mortal man; denial of the fulness of God's creation; ecclesiastical despotism;" and so it is plain how it is powerless to help us. But in our extremity, the unutterable, all-embracing love of God meets our need. Tender, compassionate, ministering, infinitely practical, the divine idea as revealed in Christian Science has found us, has bound up the wounds inflicted by wrong thinking and false belief, has gently poured in the oil and wine of comfort and inspiration, has soothed the sharp pains of wounded pride, fear, self-condemnation, and has lovingly cleansed our consciousness from all ill effects of the mental conflict. And have we not also been lifted out of the mire of materiality and carried to a place of safety, even to "the secret place of the most High," there to realize in sweet security our freedom from error, and to regain, through repentance and purification and in the renewed assurance of the ever-presence of Love, not only all that which we thought we had lost, but added treasures of Truth as well?
In the parable of the good Samaritan we are not told anything of the rescued one's response to the love so generously showered upon him, nor of the depth of gratitude he must have experienced. But what can we do to show forth our own? Is it too much to ask that we may reflect divine Love; that we in our turn, out of our regenerated and grateful hearts, may give the same tender, practical help which we have received? It is not too much to ask; indeed, it is the only acceptable evidence of our redemption, of our part in the atonement, that at-one-ment with God which Christ Jesus exemplified and our Leader has made plain to us.
Oh, may we never look coldly on a fallen brother and, heedless of his unspoken cry for help, pass by on the other side, without offering in Christ's name the cup of cold water,—that cleansing, purifying mental draft of right thinking, that spontaneous rejection of error's claim to reality, that realization, whether silent or spoken, of God's presence, power, and allness. So many opportunities to prove that we reflect divine Love have hitherto been passed by unheeded! What are sin and disease and all the unlovely traits of so-called mortal mind but thieves, false beliefs that would rob us of our rightful heritage? Yet man's true selfhood is ever perfect and unsullied; and the treasures of Truth cannot be lost.
How then are we to gain that spiritual perception which sees the need of our brother while realizing the true facts concerning God and man? True spirituality is expressed in the reflection of Love,—the spontaneous outpouring of unselfish devotion to Christ, Truth; and the human effort towards it is twofold,—namely, the necessity of detecting and laying off the old man and of putting on the new. The endeavor to discard the beliefs and desires of the carnal mind is blessed only as the affirmative and imperative nature of Truth is proportionably seen and practiced. The laying off of the old man is not a hard task, if the new man is being recognized and made manifest. The Pharisees of old were particular not to omit in the smallest detail their observance of rabbinical law. They were scrupulously careful to abstain from practices which their religion taught them to avoid. But this seeming observance of self-denial, this outward show of religious enthusiasm, did not make them receptive to the Christ, who declared, "These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
It behooves Christian Scientists to watch that they be not content to rest in idle contemplation of the vision of Truth which has come to this age through revelation to Mrs. Eddy, content merely with having discarded what no longer appeals to them in the shape of pursuit of pleasure and material gratification, conscious of a vision of Truth that makes them "a peculiar people," seeing far beyond the poor limits of mortal mind, whose only interest is in the birth, maturity, decay, and death of its own illusive conceptions. What if the imperative call of Love to go forward, to make manifest here and now the everlasting kingdom, remains unanswered? What if false beliefs are still indulged, if there lurk criticism or condemnation of those who do not seem to see so far or so clearly? And how, in sudden need, shall one rise to the call of the moment for one's self or another unless one has faithfully applied the understanding of Christian Science in one's innermost consciousness and in daily life? Let us detect and cast out the errors of apathy and procrastination before they rob us of our most precious possessions. "Let us hold fast our profession ... that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need," as was urged by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews.
Seeing the necessity for perfection will not alone prepare us for its realization. Pushing the logic of Truth to its farthest conclusion in theory will not enable us to demonstrate in practice its first rules. The overcoming, in the first instance, of some subtle sin or disease will further our progress only as the error is replaced by the active realization of the right idea,—by the truth which must bring a fuller understanding and demonstration of God's allness. The truth of being is realized in the natural, spontaneous reflection of Love,—always, in all circumstances, in every place. This is the ultimate of all our endeavors; and in joyously striving for it we shall reflect the power that heals and saves those who are in need, and who are ready for the imparted blessing.
Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, through whose spiritual understanding and faithful, selfless work countless thousands of helpless victims have been lifted from the roadside of false belief and restored to health and happiness, tells us of that knowledge of God which will enable us to love Him understandingly and our neighbor in the only way that will benefit him. On page 4 of Science and Health she writes, "What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds." That prayer is ever ascending,—a fervent, joyful, ceaseless desire for God's grace. How steadily its fire burned in the lowly heart of our Leader may be seen from the words she wrote after many years, when there shone forth the harvest of her faithful sowing, ripe, golden measures—pressed down and running over—of spiritual achievement. On page 247 of "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany" she writes, "The little that I have accomplished has all been done through love,—self-forgetful, patient, unfaltering tenderness."
Christ Jesus, ending his story of the good Samaritan, gave us that gentle command, in obedience to which lies the test of all sincerity: "Go, and do thou likewise."
Copyright, 1925, by The Christian Science Publishing Society, Falmouth and St. Paul Streets, Boston, Massachusetts. Entered at Boston post office as second-class matter. Acceptance for mailing at a special rate of provided for in section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized on July 11, 1918.