“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
So writes Paul to the church in Rome “who are loved by God and called to be saints.” (Romans 1:7) Paul testifies how he prays for them “at all times” and how pleased he is “because [their] faith is being reported all over the world.” (Romans 1:9,8) He is “eager to preach the gospel” to those “who are at Rome.” (Romans 1:15) Paul here implies that in Rome he will find “both Greeks and non-Greeks, both the wise and the foolish.” (Romans 1:14)
The gospel — the good news — is meant to be encouraging! The good news is encouraging to both the Greek and non-Greek, to the Jew and the Gentile, to the wise and the foolish. Therefore, Paul is “not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God.” (Romans 1:16) This power emanating from God saves; His power first saves the Jew, then the Gentile. This power reveals a righteousness also emanating from God, “a righteousness that is by faith first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous live by faith.'” (Romans 1:17) First to last, beginning to end — the power of God provides faith, salvation, and righteousness; and this is the good news!
The gospel – the good news – is meant to be strengthening! The power of God encourages and strengthens “all who believe.” (Romans 3:22) No matter whether we are male or female, Black or White, Brown or Red; no matter our national origin or ethnic descent, we have all “sinned and [fallen] short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace.” (Romans 3:23)
“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:27-28)
“But he wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replies with the story of the Jewish man who “falls into the hands of robbers. They strip him of his clothes, beat him and go away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30) So, this man lies naked along the side of a road. “A priest happens to be going down the same road, and when he sees the man, he passes by on the other side.” Apparently, this priest not only goes on his way, but he deliberately avoids the man likely by crossing to the other side so he will not have to look at the man who is half dead. A Levite comes along, and also makes a concerted effort to ignore and avoid the half dead man.
But, a Samaritan – a hated enemy of the Jew — upon sighting the bleeding, dying man takes pity on him. He goes to him, bandages his wounds after “pouring on oil and wine. Then he puts the man on his own donkey, takes him to an inn and takes care of him.” (Luke 10:34) He pays the innkeeper “two silver coins” to “look after him.” (Luke 10:35) He also promises to repay any extra expenses when he returns. He has no intention of going on his way without a planned return to check up on the injured man.
It’s likely the innkeeper is surprised to find a Samaritan helping a Jew. And imagine the bewilderment the Jewish man will feel when he finally recovers, perhaps even encountering the Samaritan upon his return to the inn.
Today, the event Jesus describes might be akin to a Muslim who stops to help a Christian. This Christian is bleeding to death from being mugged and stabbed in a city alley. A pastor might pass by, crossing to the other side of the street. A judge might avoid the bleeding man. But, a Muslim stops to help. He bandages the man, carries him to his own car, takes him to a local emergency room where he guarantees payment to the intake personnel at the front desk.
Seeking to justify ourselves, we may say that the Muslim is not our neighbor, but our enemy. Jesus contradicts us.