“Blessed are the Merciful…”

Samaritan or Pharisee?

They sat around the table teasing a young man seated on one side. Mostly he just stared sheepishly at the floor; every now and then he’d look up at his accusers and say, “I can’t stand her.”

“They” were my sister’s two sons and a friend of hers who, with his wife, were staying with my sister at the time of her daughter’s funeral. Occasionally my sister put in a comment, but mostly she was wrapped up in her own grief right then.

“Come on, Mark. You looked like you were able to stand her pretty well last night, the way you were hugging her.” This from my nephew.

“I can’t stand her.”

He’d driven this young woman home late in the evening after the funeral – and ended up spending the night with her. In the morning light now, he was obviously ashamed of the whole affair. I had nothing to say but my mind’s wheels were turning and I was frowning on all this nonsense.

The young woman in question had showed up wanting to go along to the funeral with us, but her interest was plainly on this young man who boarded at my sister’s place. What does one say about such immoral behaviour–especially after a funeral. For Mark to spend the night with her and then avow the next morning that he couldn’t stand her? Hmph! Yet I did have some sympathy for him, given the willingness of the lady in question. If the others had any mercy they’d knock it off with the rude jokes.

Barb was twelve when the doctors found her full of cancer; sixteen when she finally succumbed. My  niece fought bravely, determined to beat this and go on with life, but she finally lost the war. Her death was a blow for all those who knew and loved her.

When I received the news of her death I went to my sister’s home and spent some time with her in her mourning— and found her home full of mixed assorted scruffy-looking friends who bedded down wherever they could in her tiny house.

We endured the funeral and all the weeping, shared hugs around the funeral home after, but there was nothing further planned. Some of the family and friends hit the bar, including my birth mother. This was their way of handling the pain, but it didn’t work very well. My sister’s boyfriend was so drunk and aggravating later that I had to drive them back to her place, an hour away. It seems there is so little comfort in the world! Yes, everyone was sympathetic to my sister and she shed many tears that day. But these others grieved for Barb, too, and they chose the only pain-killer they knew.

Mark had been an alcoholic, but AA had gotten him straightened out. He was determined to stay “on the wagon” but he accepted the “comfort” that was offered him later that evening. Thrown at him, I could say. The next morning here he was, facing the truth; he had no feelings for her at all. It was a very temporary fix.

I went about for awhile feeling righteously indignant about all this carrying on, until I saw my self in the Scriptures:
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” Luke 18:11


I remembered the Parable of the Good Samaritan:
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.” Luke 10:33,34

The Samaritan had omitted lectures about the man’s foolishness in traveling alone through dangerous territory. He’d picked the man up – probably getting blood and dirt on his own clean garments – and taken him to a place where he’d get care. And he paid the bill. For an enemy.

I thought of how lacking in compassion I’d been to my own family. What had I done that day, with all these hurting people around me? Even my own mother. I had left them after the funeral, gone off and done my own thing for several hours! Perhaps I could have offered to stay with someone until the pain was bearable. Perhaps I could have offered a few words of comfort: “I know you miss her, too. There is Someone Who cares that you are hurting, Someone who can help you bear this pain.”

As the Spirit pointed this out to me, it was my turn to hang my head in shame. Lord, forgive me! Open my eyes to the needs, the hurts, and show me how I can help. Lead me beyond this being thankful that “I am not like other men…sinners.” Help me to be a Samaritan instead of a Pharisee.


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