The Parable of the Good Samaritan
by Kathleen Christopher
No parable that Jesus told would have been more shocking to his listeners than that of the Good Samaritan. You and I hear the phrase “Good Samaritan” and automatically think of someone who helps a person in need with no thought of his own personal gain or safety. But to an ancient Jewish audience, the words “good” and “Samaritan” would never have been uttered together. The people of Samaria were despised as being of “mixed blood” both racially and religiously. Nor was the animosity one-way; Samaritans were likewise disdainful of Jews. When looking for examples of righteousness, the Jewish mind would not even conceive of a Samaritan entering the picture.
To experience the impact of Jesus’ parable, we need to re-imagine the story. Let’s say that a fellow parishioner says to you:
“You won’t believe what I just heard! One of our church members was mugged and beaten up in a bad section of DC. The well-known pastor of a popular church came by and saw him there, but he didn’t stop – I don’t know if he was afraid he might get mugged too, or what – but he actually crossed over to the other side of the road and hurried away. Then the head of a famous Christian ministry came by – he did the same thing! Meanwhile, our guy’s just bleeding out on the road. So finally a _____ [insert a member of a group you consider most hostile to evangelical Christians] was walking by, saw him there, and rushed over to help him. He used his own shirt to stop the bleeding, called an ambulance and even gave them his credit card to pay our parishioner’s medical expenses. Can you believe it?!?”
“It makes me wonder,” this fellow parishioner says, “Do you think that sometimes non-Christians demonstrate Jesus’s love more than we do?”
What do you think?
You and I may not come across someone we consider an enemy lying in a ditch, providing us an opportunity to show that every human being is created in the image of God and thus is our “neighbor.” (Then again, some of us just might.) However, there are plenty of day-to-day opportunities for us to consider whether we are behaving more like a Pharisee or like Jesus. We can start observing how we speak to and about others who differ from us – theologically, politically, culturally – and notice whether our words are words that would come out of Jesus’ mouth. We can examine our own attitudes and actions towards those with whom we disagree, and those who might even intimidate us in some way. We can ask ourselves whether we are “crossing to the other side of the road” to avoid such people, or whether we are looking for ways in which we may demonstrate love to them. We can actively counter today’s caricature of biblically-faithful Christians as close-minded, hateful and judgmental people by demonstrating to everyone around us the all-inclusive love of God just as Jesus did.
Lord, grant me the grace to extend love beyond measure to those outside of my circle, especially those I am inclined to regard with resentment, suspicion, criticism, or fear. Fill me with your own heart’s love for those for whom I am least likely to care. Amen.
Rev. Kathleen E. Christopher is a sinner saved by grace who serves on the staff of The Falls Church Anglican as the Director of the Healing and Prayer Ministries. She is also the founder and executive director of The Christian Healing Institute, birthed out of The Falls Church Anglican to help empower Christians everywhere to pray for others.