Even Atheists Love Their Families - How Are Christians Any Better?

The parable of the Good Samaritan is beautiful and inspiring, and its message is clear: We need to help those who are in need.

But there is a danger we need to avoid. We may be tempted to congratulate ourselves too quickly, thinking that we have already obeyed Christ's command, when in truth we have not even begun to obey it.

We see the love, money, and care that the Good Samaritan gives to heal the wounded traveler. And we say, "I too have greatly sacrificed, showing love for my mother, my children, and my friends. I worked very hard to help them when they were in trouble. So I am just like the Good Samaritan!"

But when we think like that, we are forgetting something important: The Good Samaritan wasn't helping his family and friends. He was helping a complete stranger! (Read the story in Luke 10:25-37.)

In the 6th chapter of Luke's Gospel, Jesus says, 

“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." (Luke 6:32-36)

Of course, it is good to love your family. It is good to love your parents, spouse, and children. Christ commands us to do this too. 

The point is that loving your family is not enough. If you only do good things for your family and friends — if you only love the people who love you — then you aren't doing any better than the atheists and pagans. Even an atheist does good things for his parents and children.

What makes Christians different is that we also love strangers. We love sinners. We even love our enemies. This is what sets us apart.

When you go to church, and beggars stand outside asking for money, do you give them anything? Or do you give them nothing, imagining that they will only spend it on alcohol?

When you see a car broken down by the side of the road, do you ever stop to help the people? Or do you drive past them, imagining that they already have money and a cell phone?

When someone treats you badly, and later you find out that he is in trouble, do you give him the help he needs? Or do you rejoice in his suffering, because you think "he had it coming" ?

  • If you show mercy to your parents, this is commendable. 
  • If you love your spouse, this is wonderful. 
  • If you help your children, this is good. 
  • But if you want to be like the Good Samaritan — if you truly want to be a follower of Christ — then you have to go much farther than that.

Even pagans and atheists love their families and friends. — Meanwhile, Jesus calls us to love strangers and enemies.

If we want to be Christians, then we have to show love to every person — including atheists, enemies, and complete strangers. If we want to be like our heavenly Father, then we must bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We must show mercy to every person — including those who show no mercy to us.

The Good Samaritan did not ask about the wounded man's religion. He did not ask whether this stranger was godly or wicked. He didn't try to find out whether the man was a friend or an enemy. The Good Samaritan only saw one thing: He saw a person who was suffering. So he helped him.

After providing this example about the Good Samaritan, Jesus gives this command to each of us:

"Go thou and do likewise."

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

25th week after Pentecost — Sunday, November 29, 2020

Fr. Joseph Gleason

Read this homily in Russian: Даже атеисты любят свои семьи - чем христиане лучше?