We often want clear-cut answers, black and white, “just tell me what to do!” It’s nothing new. An expert in the law asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. In true Jesus-fashion, he responded with a question.
“What is written in the law? How do you read it?” Jesus asked.
He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
The expert continues, though, wanting to justify himself, “And who is my neighbor?”
Then Jesus tells a story.
It’s about the Good Samaritan. If you haven’t reread it in a while, you really should. It’s in Luke 10. It’s a timeless and timely reminder for our current spiritual and political climate.
It’s a story about how the outsider, one hated by the in-group, was actually the one who acted righteously. The one who showed mercy and generosity, the example Jesus said to model, wasn’t a guy who was part of the club.
Not the priest. Not the Levite. Not the ones who had it together by the societal and religious standards of the time—the Samaritan.
I can think of countless modern retellings. The Baptist preacher, the Conservative Republican, and the Muslim. The parallels could be applied to any number of majority/minority, accepted/rejected groups of people.
Controversial (then and now).
It’s hard to imagine the ancient near eastern perspective in our modern minds, but I imagine some of you might have gotten a little uncomfortable with even the parallel I just used. Even more, Jesus‘s audience would have been taken aback.
The Samaritan is the good guy in the story?
Like I said, timeless and timely and a helpful lens to view the happenings of this world as all sides continue to bunker down behind the safe assumptions that we’re the good/right side.
It’s not “us” and “them.” There is no “other.” When we zoom out and ask the question, “Who is my neighbor?” we’ll see the one thing that actually connects us is the grace, mercy, and love we show to all people, not just our own.