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Friday, April 12, 2013

Love Your Neighbor, the Samaritan Example

In the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), a lawyer asks a question on many minds, what must I do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asks for the two greatest commandments. Second among them is the familiar "love your neighbor as yourself." C.S. Lewis gave us one perspective on this answer ... a little how to on something that expansive. 

However, studying this passage for a biblical storytelling gig, I ran across a far more challenging interpretation. It all revolves around the Samaritan's actions ... in counterpoint to those of the religious leaders of Israel. 

A little backstory ... trust me, it helps. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was notoriously unsafe. It ran through rugged, empty expanses filled with hills and caves where bandits hid out waiting for unsuspecting single travelers. Jericho was a major economic center where officials of the Israelite church liked to hang out when off duty. There was a serious issue between the Israelites and the Samaritans. For sake of brevity, they disagreed on where to worship God and were long divided enemies based on this argument. 

To the story: the victim is an Israelite, a member of the Hebrew nation. His companions and leaders come near him and refuse to help. There were purity laws to consider, days of uncleanliness if touching a corpse, and they went on past (even though this excuse would apply only if they were headed to the temple for work ... check their direction). An enemy of the fallen man, a Samaritan (Jesus enjoyed the shock value of this for his listeners I'm sure) comes upon the fallen man and does the extraordinary. Not only does he offer help, but his help is so complete it undoes all the harm committed against the man by the robbers and the officials who ignored him. The Samaritan bound the wounds, brought the injured man to an Inn, cared for him, and then entrusted the innkeeper with two month's worth of payment to make things right for this man. The Samaritan went further, trusting both the innkeeper and the injured party to be honest with how long total recovery took, by promising to return and repay the innkeeper for care and lodging for the man over and above the two month mark. In essence, the Samaritan did all within his power that he could to help this fallen man. 

Jesus asks the lawyer who the robbed man's neighbor was. The kicker was, the one who showed him mercy. There you have it. Our neighbors, whom we are to love, include all who need us and it is within our power to help. The Samaritan's actions show us just how far we should go for those who need us ... just as far as we can. This is a challenging teaching and a powerful message. 

Keep your eyes open and prepare for action. You never know where or when you'll stumble upon your neighbor. 

Oh, by the way, one last thing. The Samaritan's actions show us how citizens of the Kingdom of God are intended to behave in the world. Will you be a citizen of that vast and growing kingdom???

For the C.S. Lewis interpretation, see:

Here's the story from Luke for your consideration: 

Luke 10:25-37
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

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