This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.
With the parables that Jesus told, he often subverted a person’s expectations. The story of the Good Samaritan is no different. In Luke 10:25-37, an expert of the Mosaic Law asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked him how he read the Law and the man answered that one should love God with his entire being and love his neighbor as himself. When Jesus told him that he had answered correctly, the man “wanted to justify himself” and asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
It seems obvious that the man had people in his life who he thought didn’t deserve his love. Love your neighbor, sure, but there must be exceptions. How often do we think the same? Loving people who treat us well and love us back is fairly easy. But what about those who we don’t like or who don’t like us? What about those who require our resources but can’t pay us back? Surely, there are exceptions and these don’t count as neighbors, right?
Jesus then told a story with four main characters: An injured man, beaten, robbed, and left for dead; as well as a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. It is presumed that the injured man was a Jew, since he was traveling out of Jerusalem, so who better to help him than fellow Jews, and especially religious leaders (kind of like this expert in the Law)? Yet, when each saw the injured man, they passed by on the other side. They saw a person in need and a looked away.
It was the Samaritan who stopped, helped the man, and paid for his care. Significant here, is the fact, that culturally the Jews and Samaritans were opposed to each other for a variety of reasons. Most Jews had little respect for Samaritans and most Samaritans felt the same toward the Jews.
Once he finished telling the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor?” The expert in the Law couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan” and instead said, “The one who showed mercy.”
Jesus replied, “Go and do likewise.” In other words: Be the Samaritan.
When we read this, we should understand two things: 1) Our “neighbor” we are to love is anyone we encounter, especially those in need of help; 2) Love, mercy, and compassion are not to be affected by backgrounds and perceptions–it doesn’t matter if a person is a different ethnicity, age, class, gender, religion, orientation, etc., the love we have for others through Jesus should know no bounds. When we encounter a person in need, our concern should not be Who are they? Nor, What have they done? Nor, What benefit do I gain? But, How can I help?
You can love someone without agreeing with them. You can love someone without being the same. You can love someone even if you feel they need to change. After all, no matter who they are or where they come from, they are exactly like us in that they are fellow human beings, made in the image of God, and in need of the grace of Jesus.
Show them grace. Show them love. Be the Samaritan.
All Scripture taken from the Christian Standard Bible.