I have been thinking about the parable of “The Good Samaritan” recently. I even gave a chapel talk to the UNM Basketball team about this parable. The more I think about it the more I love it and don’t like it all at once.
I love it because in this parable Jesus is going hard at the religious leaders of the day about who their “neighbor” is.
I dislike it because in the parable Jesus is going hard at me right where I am at about who my “neighbor” is.
Jesus tells the parable because one of the religious leaders was trying to test him about how to “inherit eternal life”. Jesus asks the guy about the law and what it says, and the leader responds by basically saying, “Love God and Love Neighbor”. Jesus affirms the answer and tells him to get to it. The man though wants more details, he wants an exact idea of who his neighbor is, in other words “give me a list of people I need to love and care for”.
It was after this question that Jesus shared this parable:
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10: 30-35, NIV)
In the parable Jesus places a jewish man as the victim of a robbery and beating, and a Samaritan as the caregiver and true neighbor. The religious ones, the ones who knew the “Love God and Neighbor” law saw the man and crossed the street to avoid touching him and defiling themselves.
What’s the big deal? Well, the Samaritans were hated, they were looked down on as nothing but half-breeds who stepped outside the faith because of their heritage and history of marrying non-israelites. In fact the leaders reaction when Jesus asks about the one who acted like a neighbor shows the disdain that he had for Samaritans, he just said “The one who had mercy”, not even mentioning his race.
The Samaritan knew that the Jewish man more than likely looked down on him, hated him and viewed him as unclean. Yet even knowing this he helped him, sacrificed time and money to care for him. He loved someone who hated him.
This is what being a neighbor is about. It is not about loving those that love you back. It is about those moments when you are called to love someone who doesn’t. It is the moments when you must love someone on the opposite side of the political aisle, theological issue or racial divide. Those are the moments we are truly called to be neighbors who love.
The law is bound up in loving God and loving neighbor. We suck at both. That is why Jesus is the true neighbor (yeah that is probably stolen from Tim Keller) because he loved us when we were enemies, when we were anything but lovable, and he loved us by sacrificing himself for us, to make us new, complete and capable of such love to others.
The law is bound up in loving God and loving neighbor. We suck at both.
I am now called in light of Jesus’ love to love like him and you know what, it sucks. It is hard, I do not want to love someone who I view (sometimes very wrongly) as racist, legalistic and arrogant. I do not want to love someone who will critique me, who will call me names, who will gossip about me. It is in those moments though I am to remember Jesus’ love and the story of the Samaritan and repent, be humbled and love my neighbor.