Jesus recounts for us in the Bible a story involving a man that many of us know well. In response to a question by another teacher about who we should treat with love as our neighbor, Jesus recounts the story of this man. He was the first man to ever hold the title of, “Good Samaritan,” but it is important that we start by analyzing what the man was – namely, a Samaritan. That word may not sound offensive to us today, but in the time of Jesus, roughly 30 A.D., it was a word that denoted a group of people who were disassociated from society solely because they were born half-Jewish.
Why do I tell you this persons’ story today? Why should anyone even care? Because in the life of this man are several important lessons on how we should act in our own culture, not just towards those who we don’t think twice about, but also about those we truly care about in our own lives.
As the story goes, a man is robbed and beaten on the road from one town to another and left for dead. A priest walks by, and instead of helping this half-dead man he continues on his way on the other side of the road. Again, a lay leader in the temple passes by the man and does not render any aid. It is only until this man who is looked down on stops to help that the man on the road receives any assistance. Jesus was pointing out to His followers and to the people gathered to hear Him teach that the one they often despised was the only one who acted righteously, while their beloved religious leaders sat back to let a man bleed to death by the side of the road.
Why does this story matter almost two thousand years later? Well, there are three incredibly important lessons to be taken from the example Jesus gives us. The first is that of the example of the Samaritan man. The story goes that he not only dressed the man’s wounds, but he also put the stranger up for two months at a nearby inn, promising to pay for whatever this man needed. This is truly an example to aspire toward. In the face of disassociation he could have struck a blow against the people who discriminated against him, but he instead showed mercy by getting this man medical help and helping in his recovery.
In a modern context, I am reminded of another, “Good Samaritan” a man named Hugo – a poor Guatemalan immigrant who came to the aid of a woman in New York City who was being attacked. For his trouble he was knifed by the assailant and left for dead on the city street. More than 25 people are seen on a camera nearby passing this man lying in the street, bleeding. Some maybe thought he was just another bum. One man is actually seen lifting the man just long enough to see the blood pooling beneath him – then just as quickly as he bothered to stop he hurries away. After an hour of this, someone finally calls the police…but it is already too late.
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It’s no real surprise to those who study human nature to see that two thousand years have barely changed a thing. But this story only starts to demonstrate the evil that pervades our culture, the isolationism of people, and the assumptions that still affect us all. You see, the second lesson we learn from this story is about the hypocrisy of the other two men. The example of this despised person who comes to the aid of a person who likely would despise him if he were healthy is juxtaposed against those in the culture whose job it was to be sensitive to the needs of people and to reach out and care. It is the hypocrisy of a people who preached that they would be caring people, and when the time came, failed to deliver on the promise. Like those 25 who passed by a bleeding man in 2010, these men were examples of their culture in 33. You see, those 25 people were not bad people. Many of them I’m sure have families and friends and do good things and give to their houses of worship. It’s not about being a bad person, it’s about being a person who doesn’t care when it counts.
It is, in the end, all about love. The third and final lesson. When Jesus answers the question of who we should love as our neighbor, he asks a simple question – “who treated this man as a neighbor?” The answer was clear – the man no one cared for. Jesus tells us this story because He wants us to see ourselves through the lens of the three men who passed by the injured one. Which are you? Are we going to continue to be a nation of people who walk by a man bleeding on the street, or are we instead going to be a people who see this man and put ourselves in his place? He had parents. He had family. One day it could be your child, your family member there on the sidewalk. How would you want those 25 to respond then? Would you want the examples of our current culture – the “priests” and the “lay leaders”, or the man who showed the most love?
I believe the answer is clear.
Let’s turn our hearts around today.
On a personal note, I would like to thank Pastor George Hancock-Stefan for the opportunity to share this column with him. Over the years I have myself been humbled and instructed by his words and feel only too indebted to be able to share this light with him now. Te iubesc, tată