For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭13:9-10‬

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The Parable Of The Good Muslim..?

People are familiar with the Good Samaritan. The tale of the man on the Jericho road. The robbers who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. The Priest and the Levite, passing by. The Samaritan. The oil and the wine he poured in. We see the Samaritan, and desire to be like him. To go all the way to help those who are in need.

But is that really the point of Jesus’ parable..? To simply inspire us to do good to people in need..? The depth of this parable is so easily lost with a loss of the context behind these words of the Christ. Like, who was He saying these words to..? Who is a Samaritan..? And why of all people did Jesus choose to make a Samaritan the hero in His parable..?

The audience who heard the words of the Christ, would have predominantly been comprised of Jews. In particular, the Lord was in conversation with a man who considered himself a scholar of the Jewish Scriptures – which is the Old Treatment of the Bible. But more on that later…

Who is a Samaritan..? The larger message of this parable of Jesus is lost to us, if we glance past this word. Samaritan, quite simply refers to a person from the land of Samaria. But why did Jesus choose a man from this land to be the hero of His tale..? Well… for one, the Jews and the Samaritans shared a unique relationship. One that was built on centuries of bitterness…

The Jews and the people of Samaria once had quite a lot in common. They were sisters. They were brothers. The descendants of one man: Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Till the time of King Solomon, the people were together. United, under one kingdom. Then, once Solomon died, the first divide appeared. The nation that was one, faced partition. The Northern Kingdom, Samaria. The Southern Kingdom, Judah.

There were times of war. There were times of peace. The political rivalry took many shades, but Judah and Samaria still existed as functional states… until the 7th century BC, when Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian conqueror, invaded Samaria. The Neo-Assyrian Empire perfected numerous techniques to extend their imperial rule, one of which involved forced exchange of populations.

People from Samaria, were carried away to Assyria, while people from other conquered nations were brought in to populate the land, according to the Book of Kings, in the Bible. The people in Samaria over the centuries intermarried and became a mixed race. While they still worshipped the God of the Bible, they also inherited portions of their religion from the imported population, becoming polytheistic.

This was the state of the Samaritan people at the time of the Christ, who came seven centuries since the time of the Assyrian invasion. Who came as a Jew, to a Judah that considered itself superior, both racially and in matters of religion. To a Judah that held their neighbours in contempt for being unlike them.

The Bible preserves these facets of this unique relationship, in the accounts of the New Testament. When Jesus’ words did not please the religious elite of His time, they resorted to slander. And what was their favourite cuss-word..? In John 8:48, we read,

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

In another instance – when Jesus converses with the ‘woman at the well’ – we see how deep the hatred ran. The woman happened to be a Samaritan. As she came to the well to draw water, Jesus asks her for a drink. But the woman noticed that there was something unusual about His request…

The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

‭‭John‬ ‭4:9

The Samaritans were considered a cuss-word. The Samaritans were considered untouchable. And when the Jew – the expert in the Old Testament – asked Jesus, “who is my neighbour..?,” He used this status of a Samaritan to help the Jews, and even us, see clearly into the heart of God.

“Who is my neighbour..?” Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it..? For the Jews who lived by the Old Testament though, this question was a matter of life and death. If you have read the post, To Love Is A Privilege, you’ll know that this verse,

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Leviticus 19:18

..along with Deuteronomy 6:5, forms the crux of the religion of the Jews. What the man asked Jesus could well be read as, “who must I love as myself in order to inherit eternal life..?” A question he asks, believing he had the answer.

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:29‬

In the parable, there are three people who pass by the dying man on the Jericho road. The Priest. The Levite. The Samaritan. The racially privileged Levite. The socially privileged Priest. They were compatriots to the citizens of Judah. All this made them stand in stark contrast to the Samaritan. The ‘half-blood.’ The sinner. The perfect outsider in Judah.

The Jews believed that their love was meant for the Jews. They believed that those that served God and lived in righteousness alone deserved their love. “For why would God desire that we love those who despise His Way..?,” they could have thought. But in revealing the Samaritan too as a neighbour to the Jews, Jesus opened their eyes to see the love that God desired from the Jews, and the love that He desires from us.

The love that sees a neighbour in those who are our people, and those who are not. The love that sees a neighbour in those who love God, and those who despise Him. The love that sees a neighbour in the pious as well as the sinful. In short, the love that never pauses to judge. The love that never segregates or questions, “is this person worthy of my love or not..?” There lies the purpose of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

In a way, the Samaritan can be seen as a symbol. The symbol of a person who people could believe to be undeserving of love. The Church today doesn’t share such a feeling toward the Samaritan people, but there are people who we are deceived to believe are as much undeserving of love, as the Jews believed the Samaritans to be.

Imagine you’re sitting in the place of the Jewish scholar, asking Jesus, “who is my neighbour..?” If Jesus responded to you with a similar parable, who will be the Levite in the tale..? Who will be the Priest..? And even more importantly, who are the Samaritans in your life..?

Lord, when I read the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it is so easy to judge the Jews for the hate they held for the Samaritans. But how am I different from them when I struggle to love people who are different from me..? Open my eyes to see who they are who I hate with such hatred. Work in my heart that the darkness in me can be replaced by your Light. Work in me Lord, that I may love the way You desire. That I may love people with an unreasonable love. That I may love people, as You love me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.‬

Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬

The Touch

Do you believe that there is power in the human touch..? When we as children, were ever faced with something that felt far beyond our years.. we’d on impulse run to our mother or father. We’d hold on to them. Remember how, with their touch, every fear of ours would fade..?

With the years passing though, the magic of that touch may weaken. When we stand as adults.. if we can’t deal with that which we face, who else can for us..? But even then, life finds a way to give us a chance to feel the power of that touch.

When you’re faced with the pain of the loss of a beloved.. when words can scarcely provide comfort, the warmth of that simple touch is sometimes all that can keep you breathing. When we feel that before us stands an insurmountable mountain, even if the hand that holds us can do little to lead us through, a touch can let us know.. there is someone here to hold on to, should we fail.

The touch can mean compassion. The touch can mean forgiveness. The touch can mean acceptance. The touch can mean sympathy. Even empathy. The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within.

Whether there is a power or not in the human touch, life has lead me through days that has made me understand the value of this means of connection to another soul. The touch that lets you feel the existence of love. Because sometimes, there is no other way left to feel love. And it is with this understanding that I read this verse from the Book of Isaiah:

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:13‬

In a moment of loneliness and faced with fear, when perhaps nothing else could’ve reached my troubled soul, His Word reached me through this verse to comfort me. Reminding me of all those who have held me.. the touches that kept me sane through the miseries of life. Reminding me that there is a touch filled with more comfort than any other.

But more than the comfort, there is this sense of amazement, that when God purposed the revelation of His nature through His Word, He made it a point to let us know how near His love extends toward us. That the Lord of all creation, seeing that we need His love expressed in a way we could grasp even when all seems lost, stretches out His hand to take hold of us. To touch us…

This is but one meaning that we can ascribe to the touch of God. When the Son of God walked among us in the flesh, He touched people with a greater purpose. Think of the leper He touched, for instance. Another man condemned by sin. Separated from contact with his people, and even from the presence of his God in His temple.

But Jesus touched him. The touch healed him. What that touch also would’ve done was fill those in presence with hope that despite the Law that condemns, the heart of God does not delight in separation from sinful man, but His desire is in bringing the sinner into union with Him in holiness, through the healing in Him. The hope He would go on to fulfil on the cross.

The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within. The touch can mean even more, when it comes from the God who is love…

I exhort the elders among you: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

1 Peter‬ ‭5:1-3‬

His Light Will Shine

[…continuation of, ‘Through The Darkest Night‘]

Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?

In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain. For one, while Peter was unaware of his weakness, God was not. He always knew him for who he is…

When Peter proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” Jesus had no reason to believe, for He knew him. In fact, He prophesied the failing of His disciple. In the Last Supper, replying to Peter,

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:34‬

When the Christ looked at Peter that night, as he denied Him the third time, there could’ve been a mix of emotions in the expression on Jesus’ face. But if there is one thing He couldn’t have been, He couldn’t have been surprised. For He had known Peter all along, even the ‘Peter,’ that Peter hadn’t yet known.

Your failings can take you by surprise, but you can never do anything that surprises the Lord. Your actions are but a reflection of the condition of your inner being. And He has always seen you, even to the depths of your soul. If your inner strength has limitations, He knows. If your moral fibre is falling apart and you’re hanging by the last thread, He knows. Trust me, He knows.

But is this a good thing that He knows..? Those of us who have lived life with secrets too dark to bare with ease, will know of the dread that takes over at the thought of being exposed to the glances of people. We do long to be known, even despite the scars and gaping wounds. That we may never deny. But there are consequences in letting people in.

What if there are consequences in being known by Him too..? That I’ll leave you to decide, whether Him knowing us, is Good News or not. But before you make that choice, let’s delve deeper into the person that is Simon Peter, and his relationship with the Christ…

The hours passed since the denial, and Peter’s loneliness continued. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Imagine him in his despair. He had bailed out on his Friend. The purest of souls He was, and Peter had let Him down. Here he is, hearing one news after the other: “Jesus has been sentenced. He has been crucified. Jesus has died. He has been buried.” Peter sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “Happiness could never again be mine,” he could’ve thought.

Hopelessness all around. No thought could lend him solace. Peter could have remembered the time when Jesus taught the disciples that He, the Messiah, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Even if Peter could’ve found the strength to believe Him, could that thought erase his pain..? Even if Jesus did come back to life, would their relationship still be the same..?

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:7‬

With the dawn of a new week though, the darkness began to recede, and the Light began to shine. The women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb, to anoint His body as per Jewish custom, returned in excitement with a message. Jesus Christ was no longer dead but risen, they said. They had seen the empty tomb. They had seen an angel, who told them that Jesus is heading toward Galilee. The angel urged them to tell the message to Jesus’ disciples.. and peculiarly, to Peter in particular.

“…tell Peter.” The other disciples could have wondered why those words were there, but imagine what those two words would’ve done to Peter. The questions that lingered in Peter’s head. The doubts that weighed like lead in his chest. Imagine, when the women brought in this message, what those two words would have done to all those doubts and questions..?

With those words, Jesus made sure that Peter was called by name. He made sure that Peter felt reassured that he still belonged. The Lord who knew Peter’s brokenness to the intimate details, cared for him with a love as intimate. As soon as Peter heard the message, the Bible says he ran to the tomb. Not a hesitant walk. He ran. Whether the others understood the depth within those words or not, I believe that Peter couldn’t have missed them.

Again, through the Christ, we get to gaze into the heart of God. Through His love for Peter, we know that He is a God of compassion. We know that the Lord forgives the worst of sinners. He forgave the man who denied Him to His face. He has forgiven even worse in me. And through Peter’s [and my own] experience with Him, we know that He doesn’t stop with forgiveness, but the broken heart of the sinner, He yearns to comfort.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

And there is more… The Lord knows our weakness, and He understands. He loves us despite our failures. That is Good News in itself, isn’t it..? But.. do you know where the Good News, becomes even better..? He doesn’t cease with comforting the broken hearted, but as we draw closer to Him, He heals all that is broken in us.

That hope, is the final learning from me from Peter’s night of brokenness. Peter’s life provides hope to all of us who have had the [mis]fortune of having seen our broken selves. Because all that Peter found missing within him on that fateful night, would later be found to abound in him.

The man who faltered when faced with the suspicion of a servant, would go on to become someone who would be bold to stand up for the Truth, in all circumstances. In prison. In persecutions. Even in death. Though he be weak, Peter found strength in abundance for through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God worked in him. And Peter in the end truly became Peter, or as the name means in Greek, the ‘Rock.’

How dark are the nights that you are facing in your life..? Are they as dark as the night that Peter endured..? Perhaps they’re darker still..? Take heart. Morning will come. The Light will shine. Through the Christ there is reason to hope. The Lord who knows you by name. The Lord who has seen your tears. He is the Lord who calls to be Saints, the broken things of this world…

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:28‬

God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:4

Through The Darkest Night

We could only guess, the kind of thoughts that raged inside his head. Danger surrounded Peter. He could have found enemies on the streets, in people he had never known. Worse still were the enemies working within him…

He had dared to follow Jesus. He had seen His power. He had seen His love. Peter believed Him to be the Messiah, who would establish His Kingdom on Earth. But instead of plotting a plan to take His deserved place, Jesus prophesied that He would die. He let Himself be taken captive by those who opposed Him.

Peter could not have understood then. When they came to arrest Jesus, He took up the sword to defend Him, cutting a ear off a servant of the high priest. But Jesus rebuked him. “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” He said, as He healed the wound Peter had inflicted. Jesus seemed almost as if He willed to be taken.

Peter fled the scene. His love for Jesus though, couldn’t keep him far. He must have remembered all those moments they shared. Even the moment in the boat when the Lord told him, as a man ensnared by guilt and shame, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus loved him like no one else had. He loved him in his weakness. He loved him in his strength. And Peter loved Jesus in return.

While the other disciples went into hiding, Peter followed Him to the premises of the high priest, where Jesus’ trial would be held. But that was as far as his strength could take him. When a woman recognised him as one who was with Jesus, his strength failed him. Fearing the worst, he denied even knowing the Lord. Before the rooster crowed to signal the end of that fateful night, Peter had denied Jesus thrice.

The third time, even as he was speaking, he looked in Jesus’ direction. The Lord had looked straight at him. Only hours earlier, as they shared dinner in the famous Last Supper, Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” But here he was, even the night hadn’t ended, and he had denied Jesus to His face.

And Peter went out and wept bitterly.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:62‬

When he promised Jesus that he’d never leave His side, Peter truly believed that which he said. Other people may be weak enough to forsake their loved ones in the face of adversity. He would never, he must have thought. But in the end.. when it mattered the most, he did.

There is pain in disappointing the people we love. Peter must have felt that. But equally worse is the pain we feel in disappointing ourselves. Most of us could scarcely believe ourselves to be infallible. But there are certain wrongs that we could never believe we’d ever stoop to.

Each day of our life tends to add more to our understanding of who we are. Like pieces in a puzzle. Like a picture that we paint in our minds over our lifetime. But imagine, if in a matter of moments, all that you love about that picture – all that you believe to be the good in you – turned to vapour before your eyes, how would you feel..?

For all the faults he was aware of, Peter believed himself to be a man who would dare to lay down his life for the sake of those he loved. This was the man he was. This was the man he will forever be. But how wrong was he..? In the dark of that night, all it took was the suspicion of a woman to shatter the ‘Peter,’ that Peter thought he knew.

Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to ever love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?

In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain…

[…continued in ‘His Light Will Shine‘]

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Ephesians‬ ‭3:14,17-19‬

Flawless Bride

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:8‬

The Christ was born to die. He knew how He would die. He prophesied the manner of His death. He knew He would be forsaken. He knew the pain that He was to endure. Knowing all this, He refused to turn away. Instead, He walked on to face His death. Love lead Him there. Love for His bride. Love for His unfaithful bride.

The joy of Christmas. The victory at Easter. They can never be complete without the love that flowed from the cross, in the form of His blood, on that day nearly 2000 years ago. The Good Friday. The day when God displayed the depths of His goodness. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We wandered far. We loved sin more than we loved Him. But still.. He chose to die for us, so that in Him we may live.

And Jesus, having finished His work, must have seen us wayward sinners, and the brokenness that lay within us. As He hung on the cross, broken for our sins, He must have seen the sin inflicted wounds and the scars in our souls that only His blood could heal. And on that day – that Good Friday – even as He had lost all His beauty through the brutality of the crucifixion, He must have longed for the day to come, when He would set His loving gaze upon us – His broken bride, made whole by His blood – and say,

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

‭‭The Song of Solomon‬ ‭4:7‬

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