|HOME About Christian Blogging About Martin Roth My Novels|
Living Our Stories – Reclaiming Our Biblical Heritage
Our Christian heritage is made up of stories. They are a story of the creation of a world that is good, a story of justice, of servanthood, suffering, forgiveness, humility, redemption, love, hope, charity, healing, reconciliation, joy and much, much more.
They are the stories that Jesus lived out. Importantly, they are counter-cultural. Yet too many Christians today are captives of the prevailing culture, usually to a degree that they themselves do not even realise. If we are truly to grow as Christians we must be made aware of the shocking extent to which too many of us have compromised with a society that steadily abandons a biblical worldview.
We must understand the stories, understand their impact on our society and we must live out the stories.
I do not think that we could over-emphasise the influence that the simple and moving story of the Good Samaritan, told by Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, has had on our culture. It is the story of a man beaten by robbers and left for dead on the road, and then helped by a passing Samaritan. But the problem is, the story has become so well-known to us that we somehow think it expresses some kind of universal truth.
Yet there are plenty of countries where you don’t help a stranger in trouble. Living in Asia from 1976 to 1992, I saw that most people felt a strong obligation to help anyone in trouble from their own family, or from their own group - such as the company they worked for - but it was an alien notion to help outsiders.
In Japan I was for some years deeply involved in Buddhism. But my enthusiasm faded. Here is one incident that helped disillusion me.
While carrying out research for my book Zen Guide, I visited Kyoto’s 600-year-old Golden Temple, one of Japan’s most beautiful religious buildings and a famous tourist sight. I was privileged to be able to enter parts of the gold-leafed temple that are normally off-limits to visitors. I sat with one of the priests beside a delicately manicured garden and a small lake and we drank green tea together, ate traditional cake delicacies and discussed Buddhism. It seemed to me at that time to be a small taste of paradise.
But that evening in Osaka, walking to catch a train, I passed through a park littered with rubbish. The park was apparently home to at least a dozen alcoholic, derelict tramps. They were lying around in tattered clothing, some sleeping, others singing and drinking cheap liquor. And I could not help making a connection with my visit just a few hours earlier to the utopia of the Golden Temple. I wondered what the priests there could offer the men in the park.
It seemed to me they could mainly tell them that the world was a miserable place and that their lives were meaningless.
But raised in a culture that was formed by the story of the Good Samaritan, I felt something more was needed.
Japan was a country with little social welfare, and for those in trouble, and without the support of family, life could be devastating. Only about one percent of the population was Christian but during my time in Japan I saw with my own eyes - and they were non-Christian eyes in those days - that it was especially Christian charities that provided a support net for those people.
Unfortunately, here in the West, as our biblical worldview weakens so too does our compassion. Even within the church there are people starting to believe that success and lack of success in life are, ultimately, personal choices.
We too are becoming less concerned about the man lying on the side of the road.
October 8th, 2002