May 29, 2020

Good Samaritan

By Glenn

The gospels are a rich source of wisdom.  In simple parables, they offer role models for good behavior. They also highlight some bad behavior. Often these parables take an unexpected turn and contradict common sense. The Gospels turn our common beliefs on their heads.

One of my favorite parables is the story of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans trace their lineage through Israelites who never experienced captivity in Babylon. Unlike Jews in Jerusalem, they sacrificed on Mount Gerizim instead of in the Temple. These ritualistic differences created animosity between the two groups.

When Jesus chose a Samaritan as an example of a good neighbor, it contradicted common sense.  Jesus often turned to Samaritans as examples of good behavior. They may have worshiped differently, but they exhibited behaviors that reflected the Gospel.  Like the woman at the well, Samaritans in the Gospels were kind and hospitable to strangers.

The context of the parable of the Good Samaritan is a test or trick set for Jesus. A scholar of the law, or lawyer, asked “Teacher…what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded by asking the lawyer what the law said.  The lawyer said to honor the Lord your God with your whole heart and to love your neighbor as yourself.

The first part of the answer was common sense. Who didn’t know this?  The second part contains the wisdom of the Gospel.   It held a surprise.  The lawyer then asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus proceeded to tell the story of the Good Samaritan.  

The Samaritan stopped to help a stranger in need.  He dressed the stranger’s wounds, gave the stranger a ride on a donkey and then even paid for the “hospital” care in the inn.  This behavior was in stark contrast to the Priest of the Temple and a Levite.  Both hurried by the stranger in need.

Why would they do such a thing?  They had their relationship with God to attend to.  They couldn’t worship God with blood on their hands.  Blood was dirty.  God was clean.  They couldn’t worship God if they too were dirty.  Their relationship with God mattered more than their love of neighbor.   They couldn’t risk offending God to help their neighbor.

How many people today are doing the same thing by rushing off to a Church service?  Just like the Priest and the Levite they have more concern for their personal relationship with God than the safety of their neighbors.   There are countless examples around the world and the United States of Covid 19 spreading in Church assemblies. 

Doctors, nurses and hospital staff then have to step in to clean up the mess.  They are the Good Samaritans.  On Tuesday night the city of Sherman announced that 5 firefighters now have Covid 19.  How many times in the past months were they called upon to put their lives at risk to save others?  

Who will you be?  A Priest?  A Levite? A Good Samaritan? Can you stay home for Love of Neighbor?

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