One the most memorable parables in the Bible is the story of the Good Samaritan. The story is told in children books, animated cartoons, coloring sheets, and videos as well Sunday sermons. A Samaritan finds a wounded and beaten man on the side of the road who has been robbed, stripped of his clothing and left half-dead.
A Jewish priest and Levite pass by on the other side of the road with little regard. It is the Samaritan who addresses his needs, takes him to an inn, and assumes all expenses for his care. As Jesus told this story a law expert stood up to test him with a question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said it is written in the Law. “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 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The law expert, to justify himself, asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” After hearing the full story, he agreed the Samaritan who showed mercy was a true neighbor. To the question, why the Priest and Levite failed to give aid to the wounded man, several answers have been suggested. One proposition is they could not touch the man as it would defile them as they traveled to conduct their religious duties. However, it raises a question as to whether any other Samaritan would have been as generous as the Good Samaritan? It is unlikely since the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans and the Jews and the Samaritans hated each other. other. What makes the Good Samaritan “Good” is not only his care and treatment of the wounded man, but he did it for a hated group of people. Jesus came with a special invitation to the Jews and the story of the Good Samaritan was not a popular one among them.
It is easy to help our neighbor when he or she is someone we know or with whom we identify. If we replace the wounded man in the parable for any hated and despised person or group, we can see how difficult it can be.
A black man is driving down a road where a Klan rally earlier had been held. Later, he sees a car with Klan insignias turned over with a Klansman inside badly hurt. Should the black man who knows how the Klan feels about his people provide assistance, call the authorities, or pass by? The black man in question is not likely to become a friend of the man he has assisted and he may not receive the approval of his friends and family when the story is told.
A white man sees someone being beaten and discovers that it is a man dressed in women’s clothing. The man believes that God made men and women and anyone who dresses or acts opposite of his or her gender is committing a sin. Should the man try to stop the men from beating the transvestite or go on his way saying, “good enough for him.” What would be the consequences if the man intervened? Would he be seen as a sympathizer? Would his reputation in the community suffer?
This was the dilemma Jesus was presenting to his audience. It is easier to profess our faith than to live it. The parable of the Rich Man is another story of the difficulties of following Christ. A rich man ran up to Jesus and said “Good Teacher” what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus has a genuine love for the rich man and after stating what he must do, the rich man says he has done all those things. Jesus then says, “There is still one thing you haven’t done; Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.” The rich man’s response in many ways was similar to ours. “At this the (rich) man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
We are Christians in Sunday School, church, and at Bible Study, but we find it more difficult to serve God in our daily lives. It is difficult to go against the attitudes and values of our family, friends, and neighbors. However, as believers, we are required to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
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