On the Defensive

Worship at the The 87th session of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation in the United States

By Emily Hylden

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37

25 An expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

29 But wanting to vindicate himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and took off, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came upon him, and when he saw him he was moved with compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, treating them with oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”


Would you do an experiment with me? Take a deep breath.

Let it out, slowly. Take another breath, notice the air filling your lungs. If you’d like to, hold your lungs full of life-giving oxygen for just a moment, and then allow yourself to exhale.

The famous Good Samaritan parable springs from a lawyer’s question: “Who is my neighbor?” The interesting part to me, though, is the preamble to this question, the setup that Luke gives it, leaving no question as to the man’s motive: “wanting to justify himself.”

One who wants to justify herself is one who feels defensive. This person feels defensive before God. The cause could be could be guilt, it could be fear, but what we know about God is that he does not condemn and does not manipulate through fear. We need not feel defensive before God. We need not justify ourselves before God. Indeed, we cannot justify ourselves; God himself, in Jesus Christ, does so.

It’s a frightening thing to realize we cannot justify ourselves, that we are absolutely dependent on another, on the most powerful being in existence. It’s also a freeing thing to realize that we cannot depend on ourselves, that we can never be okay on our own.

Take a deep breath, then let it out, slowly. Take another breath, notice the air filling your lungs. Let your defensiveness melt away with your exhale, let God’s forgiveness and his justification fill your body and soul as you inhale life-giving breath.

The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Nebbi – The Church of the Province of Uganda
St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky


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