The Missional Margin of the Good Samaritan

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After writing about cultivating, remembering, and evolving a missional community vision, I can’t help but think of 3 conceptual ideas that will help our minds pursue the vision God has for us. The next 3 blogs are going to be on Missional Margin, Missional Theology, and Missional Longevity. We’ll start with Missional Margin and look at the margin of the Good Samaritan.

Missional Margin

The story of the Good Samaritan is easily the most famous parable that Jesus told. A priest and a rabbi refuse to help someone hurt along the road, but a Samaritan, the one hated by the Hebrew people not only helps, but finds a hotel and pays for the man to get better.

The more I reflect on the story of the Good Samaritan, I’m becoming more and more amazed by the margin in the life of the Good Samaritan to be able to take that amount of time to care for someone he had just met. He stopped along the road, he assessed the needs of the individual, he traveled with the man until he found a room for him to stay, providing money to make sure he was well taken care of and then went on his way.

Jesus was telling a story to expose the lack of love for neighbor of the expert in the Law. If we allow it too, it can expose our lack of love and the actions we take that hinder our ability to love others.

Are we too busy to be on mission?

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Are we so overscheduled that someone interrupting our day is not seen as a potential act of God, but as an attack on our achievements? This could be church activity or it could be our careers, our hobbies, or the many family activities we add to our plates.

In New York, we schedule dinners 3 weeks in advance because everything else is booked. What happens when the neighbor or member of our Community Group asks if they can stop by because they’ve had a rough day? I didn’t schedule that…

Most of God’s mission doesn’t happen on a schedule or a flow of service, but along the way as we interact at work, commute home, or find ourselves watching the game with friends. It’s no wonder that there are so many verses exhorting us to always be ready to give a defense, to be prepared to answer anyone who asks us, and to teach our family while we go through the everyday activities of life.

What can we learn from the good Samaritan?

I’d like to suggest 3 things.

 1) Our values are off

It can easily be argued or understood that the priest or rabbi had many important things to do or were seeking to follow the religious laws, but the parable reveals the differing values between the religious leaders and the Samaritan. It also exposes our misplaced values.

We too often value tasks and achievement over people and presence. We commit to more things than we are able to be faithful to, we run late and our minds often wander to the next meeting or activity. For those of us with families, we fill their schedules and commute everywhere for the latest sports activity, class, or lesson because they must be the most well-rounded, advanced child in everything. They need these things for their college application, future resume, and because we didn’t have them.

A successful day has become getting a lot done, advancing the bottom line or the mission, and when we reflect on the day, we don’t remember a single person we interacted with.

Jesus was busy, but never too busy for people. His disciples would often push people away or wonder why he spoke with certain people, but Jesus’ value, His mission always had to do with people.

Where do your values differ?

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2) The greatest action toward margin for mission is saying No.

The priest and the rabbi said no to the individual in need, but the Samaritan had to have said no to something else to care for the person in need.

Your church needs Sunday volunteers, new Community Group Leaders, and deacons. The PTA needs a few more volunteers for the Fall Festival Committee. Your job needs you to stay late “just one more time” to complete the work for the deadline in a few weeks.

(On a church sidenote: This problem is often caused by everyone not serving in at least one volunteer opportunity, but you should not be committed to 5 different volunteer opportunities or way too many work obligations – pastors or church staff.)

How much of our saying yes is desire to serve or love others and how much is fear of losing approval?

If you don’t plan your schedule, someone will be glad to plan it for you. We must consistently evaluate what we have committed to, how we can invite people to help us in areas where we are over-committed.

3) It’s OK to cancel on someone or be canceled on for the good of others

How do we know the Good Samaritan had any time at all? Maybe he was late for a business meeting and lost out on business. Maybe he was due home and wasn’t able to tuck his kids into bed that night. Maybe he missed an important event for a friend.

He may not have had the time at all and yet, he took it.

Do we love people enough to do the same?

Don’t feel guilty for saying no to opportunities in the church, work, or other area for your family, for friends, and for the mission of God and don’t feel bitter when others do the same.

Jesus stopped to help an elderly woman in pain for decades and it cost the life of a little girl. Or so everyone thought, yet it taught the disciples and everyone else about faith. We may miss the ways God wants to work simply by being too busy.

Quit eliminating the margin in your life and make room for the mission of God to interrupt you.

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