Many people think that love is a feeling, but it’s so much more than that. True love is an act of patience, kindness and grace. It is a gift we share. It’s not something we can demand or command. True love isn’t earned; it is simply given. Love is the way we act not the way we feel. When Jesus was asked what it means to love your neighbor, he used a story referred to as “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37). The following is my take.
The Good Shopkeeper
Many years ago in a small town a shopkeeper was busy cleaning up after a long day. It was getting close to Christmas, so business was particularly good that day. As the candles began to burn out one by one, the shopkeeper paused to enjoy the moment. He was weary but happy. He took a deep breath and smiled because he felt truly blessed. Suddenly, there was a crash and two masked men burst into the shop. The one man lunged at the shopkeeper and hit him with a club. The only thing the shopkeeper noticed before everything went dark was a crest on the man’s sleeve for a cult group that was known to be very dangerous.
When the shopkeeper woke up, he touched his stinging head, which felt crusty from all of the dried blood. He slowly got up and looked around to find the place he hid the money was broken open and all of his money was gone. He then reached in his pocket and he felt the couple coins he had kept in there for emergencies; that was the only money he had left from the season. In a daze the shopkeeper locked up the store and began to walk home. It was a cold night, but the shopkeeper didn’t notice because he was still in shock from the night’s events. As he slowly walked down the street in a ditch at the side of the road was what looked like a person. As he approached, the shopkeeper noticed beside the body was both a mask and a club. He then noticed the only thing the man was wearing was a shirt. The shopkeeper hesitantly looked at the sleeve and there it was the crest of the cult. The man lying in the ditch was the one who had hit him. The shopkeeper just stared at the man who now lay in the ditch. It looked like he was breathing, but he was badly beaten. There was a lot of blood and his arm, which should be pointed the one way, was bent in a very opposite position. This man was in serious trouble, especially on such a cold night. The other partner must have turned on him, beat him and made off with the money for himself. The shopkeeper didn’t know what to do. This was the man who knocked him out and stole his Christmas earnings. He stole the money he needed to provide a Christmas for his own family. The shopkeeper wanted to take the club and have a couple swings himself. Instead, he simply said “You’re not worth it. You’re not worth me even hitting you.” And he started walking away.
After the shopkeeper had walked a fair distance, he looked back to give one last scowl and noticed that another man was coming up the street. The shopkeeper recognized him; it was the town priest. As the priest approached the man in the ditch, he suddenly ran across the street to get away from him. He must have seen the crest on the man’s sleeve because the shopkeeper knew how evil the priest thought the cult was. Shortly behind the priest was a local security man. When the man saw the body he ran to it and bent down, but when he got up he had the club in his hands and he started swinging at the man in the ditch.
The shopkeeper was conflicted. Shouldn’t he be happy about this? This man was getting what he deserved, but for some reason the shopkeeper found himself running back screaming at the man and telling him to leave or he’d report him. Fortunately, the guard listened and he ran away before he could be identified. And when the shopkeeper got to the body, there he stood alone again with the man who had beaten him; a man who had been rejected by the priest as being vile and a security man who was so disgusted with him he added to the beating. The shopkeeper simply stared at the man bleeding in the ditch. He touched the gash on his own head, which part of him hoped would make him remember the anger he had, but instead the shopkeeper felt sympathy. His heart filled with compassion. With all the strength he could muster the shopkeeper slung the man over his shoulder and slowly began walking home repeating the words of Jesus: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
The next day the man from the ditch woke up in a strange house. He groggily asked where he was and a woman greeted him through gritted teeth and said the man you beat up and stole from found you in a ditch and brought you home. The man was confused. The woman explained that he was found in a ditch with only a shirt on. With eyes blazing she then stared hard at the man and said “My husband, the man you beat and robbed, saved you and used the only money he had left to pay for your doctor. That was the kind of man you stole from.”
The man was blown away by this act of love. Never would he have imagined that someone who had been beaten and robbed could show such love to his attacker. After letting the reality sink in he asked the wife about his horse? The wife laughed and said there was no horse. He only had on a shirt with the crest of the vilest of groups. The man then said “I am not who you think I am.” The wife laughed “Yeah, like I’m going to believe that. Every guilty person would say that.” The man then explained that he was the king’s top messenger. He had been riding through town when he was ambushed by two men in masks. The last thing he remembered was a man with a strange symbol on his shirt hitting him in the head with a club. He asked the wife to send someone to the palace to confirm the story… and to receive the reward this man so rightfully deserved. That Christmas, the shopkeeper and his family were brought to the palace for a feast in his honor; a man who truly displayed what it means to love.
This week may you both offer true love to those around you and receive it in a powerful way.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca