The Good Samaritan

In the past few months, our nation has been faced with many challenges, most recently the events in Charlottesville.  CGC sends their condolences to those who have suffered.  In an effort to offer healing, we believe that lessons can be learned from the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament is the story of The Good Samaritan. The term “Good Samaritan” has come to mean someone who does a good act towards someone in need. But the original story has a broader meaning that is relevant in these times. And it’s relevant to relate the parable of the Good Samaritan in the context in which it was given.

As Jesus was preaching a young man identified as a lawyer (one who is familiar with the law) asked Jesus what he should do to “inherit eternal life”. Jesus turned it around and said to him, “well, what does the law say?” The young man repeats, probably by rote, a quick summary of the ten commandments, “Love God with all our being, and our neighbor as ourselves.” Jesus responds, “That’s correct, you probably have a future as a lawyer. So, do this and you will live.”

But then the young lawyer presses further challenging Jesus by asking, “And just who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds with the famous story of a man (presumably a Jew like Jesus) who is robbed and beaten on a lonely stretch of road and left for dead. As he is lying there dying a man of the church comes by (like Jesus probably a Jew, so this would have been someone from the temple presumably). He sees a body lying in the path and moves as far away as possible to pass on the other side. Then a Levite (probably a judge – like the young lawyer might aspire to be) walks by, takes a look at the man, and then moves away wanting nothing to do with this sordid situation. Finally, a Samaritan – a man from a group of people that has nothing to do with Jesus, his audience, or any Jew – comes by and sees the dying victim. He stops, gets off his donkey and tends to the man, caring for his injuries, pouring in oil and water (costly commodities of the day) and helps him onto his donkey. He then takes him to an inn so that he can rest. Presumably he gives him clothes, since the man’s clothes were stolen. And the next day when he has to leave, he tells the innkeeper to take care of the man, paying him in advance for the cost and assuring him that if it is not enough he will reimburse him when returns to the inn.

Jesus turns to the young lawyer and says, “Now you tell me: which of these there was a neighbor to the man?” The lawyer quietly says, “He that showed mercy on him.” Jesus then tells the young man, “Now you go out and do the same.”

Samaritans are descended from the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel according to the Bible and the Hebrew Bible. Their ancestors took issue with the religious teaching of the rest of the Jewish people and so broke away.  This difference led to the two tribes having nothing to do with one another

The story of the Good Samaritan is largely about tribalism, and the importance of refuting it and looking past it. It’s about recognizing that race, class, religion, and culture are not what unites us. Its relevance to the audience that Jesus was speaking to is that these things don’t matter. We are all people.  We can and should care for each other always.

Being a member of a church or religious group does not make us Christian. Being Christian is about following the lessons and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish carpenter that lived 2000 years ago. He embodied the lessons of humility, love for his fellow man, caring for all mankind, and most of all, following the will of God, the will of Love. And these lessons are not limited to those who align themselves with any religious organization or group. They are universal lessons that all mankind will benefit from.

For all of us it is important to recognize this, and not to descend into tribalism, into prejudice, into name calling and into hatred. This is true today as it has been throughout the history of mankind. Please, take a moment to think about who is our neighbor and let that be defined by our actions and not the actions of others.