This simple story contrasts the compassion that we should show to each other with our usual attitude.
It is a story that we consistently fail to take account of, maybe because it truly reflects our condition.
It is easy to forgive from a position of absolute power and righteousness and integrity.
We do not dare to forgive from our position of weakness, insecurity and shame.
We have to present a clean/strong front to the world least our inner weaknesses should become exposed.
This is an image of the cause of schism and division between Christians and heathens alike.
Our lack of ability to accept the failings of our fellows divides us from them,
divides churches and communities, causes wars and crusades.
Our inner doubts reinforce our need to be thought right,
to create strong borders.
The ethos of God's Kingdom is acceptance of all, forgiveness of our failings,
our weaknesses, our strange beliefs and stranger habits. God's love is inclusive.
The ethos of Religion is separation from those who think differently,
behave differently, believe differently.
The ethos of Religion is exclusive.
Jesus consistently spoke against the Pharisees, whose very name means “the separated ones”.
Yet our Religion, Christianity, went astray in the hands of those definitive saints,
the desert fathers, who set themselves apart as special.
Many parts of Christianity today separate themselves from their neighbour,
focussed, largely and liturgically, on our individual salvation or righteousness.
They dare not, can not, walk beside others because they have no confidence in themselves.
They can not see, in their blindness, that their ways are not the ways of God;
so they are separated; preserve their salvation at the cost of fellowship.
Is that loving our neighbour as we love ourselves?
The message of this parable exposes the classic conflict of Grace and Works.
Much of Christianity is driven by fear of post-mortal judgement;
Set on earning a place in heaven, on earning God's mercy.
Yet Jesus focussed on communal relationships here on earth,
often at the expense of, contrary to, local concepts of righteousness.
The many controversies of the church exemplify how it has lost its way,
- has turned from trust in God's Grace to fear of getting it wrong.
God-like mercy is all-embracing, inclusive.
God-like forgiveness is unconditional, accepting.
Can we, dare we, reflect such behaviour into our lives?