One way of dealing with the implications of this story is to see the church as the innkeeper, left here by God with a responsibility and a call to love and care for the vulnerable and injured. Our call is to do so in a way that is sacrificial and which goes beyond the extent of the law to those who have been broken and bruised by this world’s values, through disappointment, broken relationships, unemployment, debt, bereavement, empty ambitions…The church has always sought to do this, but how easily the vision is lost.
To often we extend programmes to people and expect them to feel indebted to us and in return they must give, or join or support. But in the economy of this parable the injured man is never indebted to the innkeeper. The transaction is solely between him and the Samaritan. The innkeeper must not require the victim to pay in any way because the repayment for mercy comes from another source. (In fact in the story repayment by the injured man is impossible – remember he had been robbed of everything.) And even if the Samaritan tarries, till long after the man has recovered, still the innkeeper must wait; he cannot seek payment.
The challenge of the parable to the Church therefore is to love people and voluntarily relinquish control over what they do with that love. Extending love without any obligations or any expectations over how people will act. Loving if nobody ever joins us, or pays us, or says good things about us?
Now that’s tough, because we somehow believe institutional survival depends on us having some measure of authority over the recipients of our good works. But that’s not eschatological living.