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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Power Parable: The Good Samaritan

   I'm beginning a new series about the parables of Jesus and how they confront us with a new vision concerning power.  Power has become a "bad word" among many because of its abuse in so many contexts, but I am learning from Andy Crouch's latest book Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power that power can be a gift if it is received and used for the benefit of others.

   The phrase "Good Samaritan" has a life of its own today even if the people who use it are not familiar with its source in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 10.  Here we read the full account of just a few unnamed characters:

  • Robbers, whose power comes from stealth and from banding together
  • the Traveler, who begins with the power and purpose to walk from one city to another and ends up completely powerless after the attack: wounded, lacking clothes and money
  • the Priest & Levite, who come on the scene separately with the power of status and religiosity
  • the Samaritan, with his donkey, who is considered racially inferior and a cultural foe.
   On the hierarchy of power, the Samaritan comes last.  Certainly, as a human being each character is invested with "the ability to make something of the world" [1].  However, the wounded traveler has lost this as the result of the robbers' choice to "take" something of the world; destruction instead of construction.  The religious folks refuse to get involved at all.   Strikingly, it is the despised man who decides "to make something" better in the world.  Using his assets--a donkey, oil, wine and currency--he restores another human being, a fellow image bearer.
   Power does not, first of all, arise from one's position in society or one's level of wealth.  Power is inherent in being human, whoever we are and wherever we are.  With eyes open to what God has placed before us, we daily have opportunities to use our talents, resources, time, and our very selves to enable others in this world to flourish.
[1] This is Andy Crouch's definition of power, given on page 17 of the book named above.

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