It’s been a rough year for sure. Tensions have run high and the need for genuine human sympathy has never been greater. Right now, we could all use a little reckless kindness.
What is reckless kindness? More than just a cup of coffee purchased for the next person in line, reckless kindness goes further. It’s befriending the homeless man you see daily and getting to know him as a person. It’s reaching out to the elderly neighbor who has different political views with kind words and an offer to help rake leaves. Reckless kindness is an authentic attitude of grace as the first reaction to any situation.
You could say that the idea of reckless kindness originates in the Bible. One example is the story of the Good Samaritan. To understand the story, you need to know that Samaritans, to the Jewish people, were considered more revolting than a Gentile or pagan. The story starts with a question.
An expert in Jewish laws asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asks the expert to answer his own question and the expert replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus responds, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live!” However, the expert isn’t finished and the Bible tells us he wanted to justify himself. He wants to find a way to define a neighbor as someone he, the religious expert, would want to love. So he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
For many, kindness is just like that. We all want to be kind to others but only when the others fit our idea of those worthy of kindness.
To answer the question, Jesus tells the following story of a man who is traveling the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. This road was known for being dangerous and difficult to travel. It is, to this day, a winding road that made for easy ambushing in Jesus’ time. Jesus begins the story by telling about a robbery along the road. A man had been beaten, stripped of his clothing and money, and left for dead. He’s was as good as gone without help.
First a priest came along and, seeing the man was hurt and possibly unconscious, moved to the opposite side of the road. He got as far away as he could and passed by without offering help. Then a Levite came along the same route. He also avoided the man, avoiding him as if he were a leper. These two were experts in God’s law and the scriptures. But they both left the man to die.
Now Jesus twists the narrative and says, “But a Samaritan.” Those three words change everything.
Jesus’ Jewish listeners may well have been thinking, “Oh no! Not a Samaritan! Just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, a Samaritan comes along to finish the job!” The Samaritan, hated like poison, comes along the same road not looking like someone who knows God or would care about God—not on the outside at least! Now everything changes as the Samaritan sees the injured man and is moved with compassion for him. The Samaritan bandages his wounds and gives him a ride to an inn. Then, he goes a step further and arranges for the innkeeper to watch over the injured man.