Today’s Sunday reflections send me off on a mental journey through parts of the New Testament. That’s in the Bible for those unfamiliar with Christian jargon and book titles. Seeing the division and unrest prevalent throughout the world right now provides a dark backdrop to an uplifting little story told by Jesus to illustrate a point. Remember the story of the Good Samaritan? I’d like to review it for just a moment; stay with me if you’re of a mind to consider the message behind that story – doing good to others even when it’s not convenient or part of your class tradition.
To set the foundation for this great story, it’s a good idea to review some important history regarding the Samaritans and Israelites. First, the Samaritans lived in Samaria after the Northern Kingdom of Israel was overran by the Assyrians in the early part of 700 B.C. Samaritans can be considered a sect due to the nation’s beliefs being partly Jewish and partly pagan, which included a lot of beliefs and practices deemed unworthy or sinful by the Jews during Christ’s time. The Jews viewed the Samaritans as having corrupted the Israelitish pure religion into something base and evil, and therefore, they hated them.
So, the story is set on a day when Jesus is being quizzed by a lawyer who asked, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Then Jesus answered by asking the lawyer a question, “What is written in the law?”
The lawyer, being smart and well-read in Jewish tradition, answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…and thy neighbor as thyself.” Jesus confirmed his answer as correct and challenged the lawyer to do just that. But that was not good enough and the lawyer pressed for more by asking, “Who is my neighbor?”
That’s when Jesus illustrated who one’s ‘neighbor’ is by relating the story of the Good Samaritan.
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10: 30-37
So, to a Jew, hearing the story’s use of Samaritan, I’m sure caused some indignation, if not introspection. But the words of Jesus were very clear; our ‘neighbor’ could be anyone, even those we despise and look down upon. How many ‘neighbors’ do you have in your existence? Do you consider yourself a Good Samaritan? Do you think you could become one?
The only way to really gain any momentum from a scripture story is by likening it to ourselves. In this story, I will use the same format, just in my own context. Here’s how it goes.
“I went into New York City the other night to buy a new gadget from Best Buy! As I was coming out of the store, I was mugged by some hooded gangsters who beat me up and took my new techno gadget!
I was laying on the edge of the parking lot; it was late; and I was in pain from the beating; and I couldn’t move. Off in the distance, I saw my Church pastor coming my direction. He was having an intense conversation on his cell phone with somebody, but finally, help had arrived. To my surprise, he walked right on by, with his cell phone pressed to his ear! Damn him!
Then, my buddy from Church headed out of the store. I knew I was going to be okay now. This guy and I went way back! But that bastonian walked right on by, too! Didn’t he recognize me? We were buds!
Then, to my surprise, that jerk, Donald J. Trump headed my direction. I hated that guy! He was the most immoral, dishonest person I knew! My friends and I took shots at that amoral piece of human garbage every time we saw his mug on TV. And to the point, “What was the president doing in the Best Buy parking lot this time of night?” was a question I asked myself at that very moment.
But suddenly I felt an arm around me as Trump placed his tailored suit jacket over me and asked if I was okay. He called an ambulance and had me taken to the hospital. And to my surprise, he rode in the ambulance to assure that I got the best care possible! He waited at the hospital until the doctors cleared me to go home. To my surprise, there was The Donald at the check-out desk. He insisted that he cover my medical bill, then he loaded me in his personal limo and took me home. As we pulled up, he assisted me into my apartment and made sure I had enough pain killers and other meds to get me through the week.
Dang, I didn’t even know that guy, and he acted like we were buds! Maybe that’s what it means to meet a Good Samaritan. You love and care for others even when they might hate you, and you have no good reason to help them other than Jesus Christ charged you with that task. And you have a deep desire to be a good person.
As we start a new week, maybe we’re thinking of a person or group who has done us wrong. Maybe we feel like protesting and demonstrating for better treatment for others. In all our goals and aspirations the next few days, let’s try to be like the Good Samaritan and find common ground with others and even love and help those who might despise us for whatever reason. After all, they’re our neighbors.