Being good is risky. So, what was Jesus’ message in that Christian parable?
What is the purpose of religion in our lives?
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"If Hosh's religion is changed as a condition of admittance in that Christian school," Anand was reiterating, "our friendship will be finished. We'll sever all ties with you and your family."
"I've got nothing against Christianity. I respect all religions and believe people should have the freedom to practice whatever they choose to believe in."
"But religious tolerance is one thing, and changing your own religion is quite another. You understand, that we can't have anything to do with those who've changed their religion, for whatever reason."
"I'll keep that in mind," Rosh answered, walking him to the station to see him off. "Thank you for your forthrightness. Rest assured, you are in distinguished company, for feeling like that."
"What do you mean?" asked his pastor friend.
"Gandhi, reportedly, said something similar," Rosh replied.
I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.
"Exactly my point," Anand nodded.
"But elsewhere, he has also reportedly said," Rosh continued:
In its broadest sense, Religion means self-realization or knowledge of self.
"I agree. Why should He? Or for that matter, why should we? Anyway, what are you speaking on tomorrow?"
“The Christian Parable of The Good Samaritan!” Anand answered with a touch of pride. "Took me a long time to prepare. I’ve collected some really good examples to explain it clearly to the congregation."
“Tell me about it,” Rosh invited. “I haven't heard it before.”
“Luke says,” Anand began, quoting from the Bible, “that a scholar once wanted to test Jesus.”
“What must I do to get eternal life?” the scholar asked Jesus.
“What is written in the Law!” Jesus replied. “How do you interpret it?”
“Love God utterly, and completely,” the scholar replied. “Love your fellow man as yourself.”
“Correct!” said Jesus. “Do this and you will have eternal life.”
“When the scholar still looked confused," Anand continued, "Jesus told him this story."
"Travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho, Jesus said, a man was way-laid by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him badly and left him for dead. A priest going down the same road, saw him, but passed him by."
"So too, did a Levite. But a Samaritan took pity on him and stopped. He attended to the wounded man, put him on his own donkey, brought him back to an inn and took care of him."
"Having to leave the next day, he paid the innkeeper some extra money to look after the wounded man until his recovery...”
‘What kind of a man was Jesus?' Rosh wondered, after Anand had finished his discourse. 'It is difficult to love anyone you know - like yourself, let alone love a stranger like that. What made his consciousness rise to such dazzling heights and gave him such compassion and empathy?’
It was a cold and dark night, but they weren't feeling any discomfort, as they walked and talked. A dull security light fixed on the wall of the old train station finally illuminated them, banishing the surrounding darkness.
Through the mist ahead, they could make out a bent figure. Their curiosity pulled them closer to its stillness. As they neared the figure, the body of a man began to take shape. His strong body odor hit their nostrils.
Anand shivered in disgust, but they approached him regardless. His long grey coat hid his shriveled face. His paws were swollen and wrapped in a dirty bandage. 'Could be a leper', they thought instantly.
Anand cringed, and cautiously turned away. “Lord knows what pox he carries,” he murmured.
They could hear the man panting, as they ambled past him. The warm air he exhaled, quickly condensed on his mustache in the cold air outside, almost as soon as it left his nostrils.
Sensing movement around him, he looked up. His face was deeply wrinkled. Ancient. His nose was wet from cold. His innocent eyes stared blankly at them. Then they cleared and came alive.
“Romantic, isn't it?” he said, with a smile full of verve and camaraderie, despite his miserable condition. Something in his voice made them stop to look at him again. His wrinkled face had broken out into a boyish grin.
Rosh did not know him, yet his smile radiated a brilliant warmth - touching him, inviting fellowship, invoking kinship, lifting his spirits. His eyes twinkled with youth. Rosh smiled back at him, and stopped suddenly.
“Don’t, Rosh!” warned Anand. “You never know! Better a living Levite, than a dead or suffering Samaritan.”
Rosh stopped in his tracks, aware of the worldly wisdom in his friend's words. A dazzling light suddenly raced over the tracks behind him. It let out a short sharp bellow, as it ground to a halt.
Rosh jumped in fright at the sudden sound. It almost always got him. Anand waved goodbye and climbed in. Rosh said farewell, and turned to walk the long lonely way back home.
The old man was still struggling to get up. Perhaps he was too weak, too old, or the cold had frozen his limbs.
“Is this your train?” Rosh asked him.
He groaned a painful affirmative, and made a desperate attempt to stand. Upright for a few moments, he wavered and began to fall. Rosh rushed to aid him.
The man yelped in pain. His pale, frail hands chewed into Rosh's arms like cold steel claws, as he gripped Rosh suddenly for support. Slowly, Rosh helped him board the train.
The brief physical contact bonded him to the old man. It seemed to Rosh, as if he had known him all his life. The man fumbled inside the carriage, trying desperately to seat himself before the train jolted into motion again.
Doors closed and the train started. The man didn’t look back. It wasn’t needed. Rosh turned around and walked back home. He knew what Jesus had meant now, and what he had to do for Hosh.
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