Heroes among us

Published 11:00 am Friday, June 29, 2018

by Charles Qualls

When is a question not just a question? 

A question is not just a question when the inquisitor is actually making a statement of some kind. Jesus always seemed to have someone trying to trip him up. A pharisee here. A scribe there. They usually came around asking him questions. Their agenda, however, was not to seek wisdom and insight. They wanted to be able to use Jesus’ own words against him. 

This summer, we are exploring some of the more vivid teachings of (especially in the book of Mark) in a series called “Transforming Words: Stories That Bring Meaning to Life.” This week, however, we departed from Mark’s gospel to visit an episode found instead in Luke’s gospel. 

It seems that in any church, sadly, there is a person who just can’t be trusted. Probably some of these characters think they’re being slick. You can usually see right through them, though. That was the case with the lawyer in Luke 10: 25-37 who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Jesus got him to answer his own question, which the man did skillfully. His answer was the most honorable one he could have given. What the lawyer used here is part of the old Hebrew Shema (Deut. 6:5) and part of a verse from Leviticus 19, and put them together so that here they sounded like one verse.

When the lawyer answered correctly, using the two-commands-in-one bias that Jesus preferred, He responded by saying, “Gooood…answer! Good answer. Do this and you will live.” Undaunted, the lawyer went back for more in verse 29. It says, “But wanting to justify himself he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

What he truly was asking here of Jesus was for him to tell him where the boundaries of neighborliness end. He supposed he knew who his own neighbors were. He wanted Jesus to tell him who was not his neighbor. 

This is the backdrop in front of which Jesus began to teach with one of the most beloved stories he ever told:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

For our congregation, I turned this poor parable just about every direction one could. We visited the story Jesus told from the perspectives of several of the players involved. We tried to imagine what it was like to be the victim. We tried to get a handle on why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop, but in the end we just aren’t satisfied with them. 

We even admitted that we haven’t studied the story completely until we understand that any one of us could have been the people who robbed and beat the man, leaving him for dead. 

We gave a shout-out to the innkeeper, who is at least inferred to have helped out by housing and caring for the stranger. In the end, though, we’re all probably drawn to the Samaritan. The good neighbor, the man who does way more than he has to in caring for this stranger.   

You know, there are heroes among us. Good neighbors. This week, I reminded our people of the dramatic fire that took place downtown on Main Street about a month ago. I stood at the Chamber of Commerce that day with Teresa Beale and friends. We watched as first responders arrived. I remembered our own church member, Bill Peak, running into the smoke to deliver flats of drinking water to firefighters. Franklin Police officers did a stellar job of crowd management so that curious folks wouldn’t be endangered. 

The firefighters, though. They were awfully good neighbors that day. What they do for a living isn’t natural, you know. When something catches on fire like that, you and I retreat to a safe distance. We should. That’s prudent and safe. Firefighters are different. They run toward the fire in order to put it out. We don’t want to breathe smoke, and we shouldn’t. Albeit armed with apparatus, these heroes go right into the thick of it all. 

Yes, it’s their jobs. We get that. They are trained and equipped, these first-responders. 

But they still choose to do what they do. In extreme situations like that, their actions are counterintuitive. I admire their work because it keeps us safe. Somehow, it all feels above-and-beyond.  When you get a chance, be sure to thank and support these good neighbors who look after us. I don’t think it’s overstated to feel like we have heroes among us.

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.