In a parable addressed to “certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” , Jesus contrasted a Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men, with a publican who petitioned God for mercy. In concluding the parable, Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
The Publican’s wail won his humble desire, while the Pharisee’s self-righteousness crucified Jesus.
Mary Baker Eddy
Message to The Mother Church for 1901 (p. 14)
We were asked in the small breakout groups from the morning session what we were looking for in Church also known as “The structure of Truth and Love”.
One theme discovered from this exercise was a want or need for “fellowship” with others. One person even gave an example of why her own branch church recently closed. She stated: “because we focused on us and not on our community.”
Midwest Church Alive Summit 2014 – Chicago
Priest, Levite, or Samaritan?
HELEN R. CONROYD
From the June 1983 issue of The Christian Science Journal
The man had been waylaid, stripped of his belongings, beaten, and left to die.
It was not a completely deserted road. We’re told that a priest of the temple saw the man and continued on his way. A Levite, one of the highly regarded assistants to the priests, went and looked at the man. But he also turned away and left the victim there.
Then a third man came. He went straight to the injured traveler and bound up his wounds, lifted him up, took him to an inn, and cared for him—even arranging for his future care. The third man was a Samaritan.
Jesus’ parable not only reminds us who our neighbor is but also shows us how we can be that good neighbor. The good neighbor expresses mercy. That is, feeling charitable concern, he chooses unselfed involvement. Our master Teacher closes his parable with this demand: “Go, and do thou likewise.”1
The Samaritan’s caring, carried out, was prayer. In the light of the parable, have you ever found yourself wondering, “Do my prayers and actions show that I am priest, Levite, or Samaritan?”
In the Samaritan we see love in action. Love is the spiritual demand on Christian Scientists. Christian Science is the Christianity that heals sickness through prayer alone—the prayer of spiritualized consciousness that sees man as God’s divine image. Such prayer heals the way Jesus healed. But something the world in general may not know about Christian Science is this: “Now, as then,” Mrs. Eddy states in Science and Health, “signs and wonders are wrought in the metaphysical healing of physical disease; but these signs are only to demonstrate its divine origin,—to attest the reality of the higher mission of the Christ-power to take away the sins of the world.”2
Where is our world? Out there somewhere? If we believe that, we may be tempted to do as the priest and Levite did. Christian Science makes its demands on us right here, right where we are, to be Samaritans. As our Leader, Mrs. Eddy, tells us: “Christian Science can and does produce universal fellowship. As the sequence of divine Love it explains love, it lives love, it demonstrates love.”3
Where is one of the most effective places to express this universal love and see its sin-destroying effect? Not surprisingly, in church.
In order for the church to do its part in taking away the sins of the world, the thoughts and attitudes within the church must be tried and, if need be, purified. Those who would seek to maintain the high standard of Christian Science might, through unconsciously submitting to error’s subtlety, be maintaining an attitude of exclusiveness. Because our Father-Mother God is all-inclusive, our approach must be all-inclusive. Fellowship can only come through the church members’ reflection and demonstration of the Love that is God—universal, impartial, all-encompassing.
Through this demonstration, divine Science can reach the world. Through it our individual churches can fulfill their place in their communities. And only through demonstrated love do we, as individual church members—practicing Christian Scientists—fulfill our unselfed purpose in life.
We may need to check on what kind of praying we’re doing. Are we honestly meaning the words we pray—really feeling the Christ-spirit? For example, do we pray for the welfare of our community in terms of “us” rather than “them”? Have we rejected exclusivesness? And are we prayerfully proving our Samaritan-like awareness of God’s inclusiveness?
Christ Jesus invited the people to come to him—and he went where the multitudes were, so theycould come to him. Peter had to learn this attitude. He prayed; he healed; he was a man of Christly manner. And yet, before he could go to Cornelius—a devout man, but a Roman!—Peter had to drop his self-righteous feelings. It was at God’s bidding that Cornelius called Peter. It was God’s bidding that led Peter to go to the centurion. “God hath shewed me,” Peter confessed, “that I should not call any man common or unclean. . . . Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.”4
Nor was Christ Jesus. He proved this. He ate openly with publicans and sinners.5 Without hesitancy he touched the leper outcast. And healed him! 6 He made clear that he had come to save the lost sheep and bring them within the fold. “It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish,”7 he said. Of those self-righteous priests and elders who professed obedience to God’s will but did not in fact obey it, Jesus predicted, “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”8
He was not of course giving the publicans and harlots unrepentant entrance into the kingdom. He was pointing out that sometimes the unacknowledged, unforsaken sins of self-righteous, self-satisfied exclusivity outweigh even the sins of the flesh.
It was natural for Jesus to eat with the publicans, touch the lepers, seek the lost sheep, raise the spiritually dead from corrupt and corrupting beliefs. He was inseparable from the Christ, and he saw others as included in the household of God. Everyone—us.
One Sunday morning I was sitting in church waiting for the service to begin, when I found myself wondering how I would respond if some poorly dressed and perhaps disoriented people should come in. Would I priest-like avert my eyes, pretending I hadn’t seen them; or Levite-like, groan, “Oh no!” and turn away? Or would I wrap them in spiritual affection and, Samaritan-like, refuse to judge from appearances? Letting Love lead the way, would I be among the first, after the service, to welcome them wholeheartedly? Asking ourselves such questions can help ready thought so that, whatever the situation, we won’t be caught off guard.
The Samaritan must have expressed the love that heals, right where it was most needed—first within himself, in his own consciousness. Then he was ready to take that God-reflecting love wherever it was needed—outside himself.
Priest, Levite, or Samaritan? As we begin to understand what we really are, inclusive ideas of the one all-inclusive God, we find we have no choice. Our Master, Christ Jesus, has already pointed out and established our Samaritan way.