Who is our Samaritan?
Let us learn a lesson from an enemy of Israel, that sometimes an enemy behaves better than us.
We will look at love of neighbor in action, who is our neighbor, can an enemy be good, salvation in pictures, and the law of life.
As we read Luke 10:25-37 we may notice the emphasis on the second of the two great commandments, loving our neighbor by doing. Some Christians claim we just need to believe and not do, but that contradicts Jesus. James put it succinctly when he said that faith without works is dead, useless (James 2:18-26). It’s similar to saying that love of God is useless without love for neighbor. That love is visible in action. We don’t do good works to gain favor with God, but because we love him and our neighbor. The works that we do in love of our neighbor are like a bright light in a prominent place in our communities that gives glory to God (Matthew 5:16). When concluding the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus’ teaching is to go and do likewise.
Who defines our neighbor
If we listen to politicians they will tell us that the illegal alien, the Moslem or the unborn baby are not our neighbors. But we let Jesus define our neighbor not politicians. We are willing to love our neighbor as long as it is not an enemy. We put boundaries on who is our neighbor. Jesus puts no boundaries on neighborliness. We want to do missionary work within our own towns, but not in another state or another country. Yet, the Gospel must go in word and deed to the whole world. We want to limit our responsibility to others but our responsibility has no bounds. The Greek word plésion means someone near but as Jesus explains (Luke 10:25-37) it also means any person “irrespective of race or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet”.
How can a Samaritan be good?
Instead of the words Good Samaritan, perhaps we could think of the good Muslim or the good illegal alien or the good person of another race to name just a few hated groups of people. The point of the parable is that we who think that we are so good are often worse than others we disdain. Why are the super-religious priest and Levite the failures in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)? Why do some Christians look for personal miracles, or focus on physical experiences like tongues and healing, or material wealth, or an ego-boosting word from the Lord but ignore this word from God? Why are we in the church so reluctant to help the man on the street who has been attacked by corporate and government robbers, and been beaten and left half dead?
When attacks come
Many robbers attack, strip people naked, beat them and leave them half dead (Luke 10:25-37). Some attacks come from the corporate world of corruption and unjust wages. Some come from the government world of unrighteous laws and overregulation. Some come from natural disasters. War, famine, disease, declining union influence, lack of education, fathers leaving the family, divorce, teenage pregnancy, domestic abuse, employment abuse, immigrant status, minority status, prejudice, disability, loss of job, low wage rates, high medical bills, fraud, oppression, theft, disasters, fire, flood, inadequate health insurance, industrial change, foreign invasion, apathy, greed, laziness, overpopulation, inequality, abuse of power, indifference and many more things attack, strip and beat people, leaving them half dead. Are we the super-righteous who step over the hurting and ignore them, or are we the despised Samaritan that cares enough to do something to help?
When enemies help and friends don’t care
We occasionally hear stories of mafia dons giving away money to the poor, or drug lords helping their communities or corporate robber barons who give away millions in philanthropic donations. Some politicians who vote to allow the convenience killing of unborn babies have helped the poor more than those who voted to ban such abortions. Even evil and murderous Hitler helped his country out of the great depression. Why is it that bad people sometimes do better than good people? That is the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Many Christians are reluctant to use the resources of bad people to help others, but the truth is we are all sinners and all our resources are tainted by some wrongdoing. The bottom line is that, when enemies help and friends don’t care who are our true friends?
The Good Samaritan: salvation in pictures
Origen was a prolific Christian writer from Egypt born in the late 100’s. He suggested that the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) can be interpreted as an allegory, the story of salvation in pictures. He wrote that the injured man pictures Adam. The journey from Jericho to Jerusalem represents our journey from this world to paradise, the robbers who attacked, stripped and beat the man represent hostile powers. The priest pictures the law and the Levite the prophets. The Samaritan is Christ who we, in our fleshly lusts, treat as an enemy. The man’s wounds are what our disobedience to God does to us. The donkey pictures Jesus’ body which takes us first to the inn picturing the church, the manager is the head of the church, and the Samaritan promises to return just like Jesus will.
False friends & true enemies
We have all experienced the disappointment of false friends. We may have been a false friend by letting someone down when they needed us most. People in business often pretend to be customer friendly just to sell something but are not when the product injures our pocket books. People running for office as friends of the people make promises only to break them once elected. Worst of all are the disappointments we find in church life where we like to think that we have better standards than those of business and government. But, we don’t. We are all more like the priest and Levite than the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We have all failed to be good friends. Only Jesus is a faithful friend. Even in the church, we be deceived into considering him to be an enemy Samaritan.
Law of life or death
Which law do we Christians obey, the law of life or death (Romans 8:2)? In the southwest of the United States we could get arrested for giving a drink to a dehydrated Mexican attempting to cross the desert. That would be aiding and abetting an illegal immigrant. It is a law of death not life. In Jesus we obey a higher law, one that values human life no matter their status in this world. In the allegory of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) we are not told why the priest and Levite did not help the robbery victim. Perhaps they were attempting to obey Old Testament laws which forbade certain mingling with foreigners. Yet there were other laws which expressly instructed helping those in need. There is no ambiguity in Jesus. We are to love even our enemies.
Love is an action, we cannot love our neighbor and do nothing, sometimes our closest neighbor is an enemy, and sometimes that enemy behaves better than we do. We have all been the enemy of God and yet in love he saved us. Let us go and do likewise.