Last week I asked the question, how do we move from Christian “Fail” to Christian “Faith”? While there are certainly loads of Christians striving to be faithful, there are many fails too. Jesus once told a famous story to instruct us how to be faithful to his way. The story is called The Good Samaritan, and you can view a wonderful dramatic presentation of it here:
You wouldn’t pick this up in the video, but as Jesus is telling the story, after he talks about the priest and Levite walking by their beat-up Jewish brother, when he mentions that next a Samaritan arrives, the people listening to Jesus tell the story would have been thinking “The Samaritan just showed up…uh-oh, now this beat-up guy is going to die FOR SURE!”
For years and years of hearing this story, we have made it so nice. The GOOD Samaritan. What a nice guy. But the only reason we call this the GOOD Samaritan is because the Jews considered all Samaritans to be BAD. So the Samaritan in Jesus’ story would either finish the guy off as easy prey, or he too would just walk by. That’s just the way Samaritans were.
Why did the Jews hate the Samaritan so much?
It goes way back into the time of the kings of Israel. Some mixed breeding was going on. Samaritans then created their own homeland, their own Scriptures, their own places of worship. Jews would go attack a Samaritan church, and the Samaritan’s would retaliate. Let’s just say that the result was a hyper-charged hatred of one another.
When Jesus places the Samaritan in the role of the good guy in his story, you could hear people in the crowd gasp and maybe spit and vomit. They would not have expected that, and it might have made them angry. It should make us convicted.
You know the guy who recently killed those college students in Oregon? You know how he said that he was specifically targeting Christians? He’s the Samaritan.
And yet, there you have it, that’s Jesus’ answer to the question, what does it mean to be neighborly? Doo what the evil guy did. Not because he is evil, not because of the centuries-old racial tension, but because he took the time to love.
We Christians can get so wrapped up in ourselves. We cannot get to where the Samaritan was, ready and willing to serve selflessly in a big loving way, if we are not able to serve selflessly in small things. So we can start small, work on dying to ourselves in little ways, and then move on to bigger and better things.
This Samaritan achieves a high degree of selfless love. He is not just opening a door, or saying please and thank you. Those are great things, but note that he is going well beyond what is considered basic care. Look at how his loving care for his enemy is described in verses 33-35.
No matter what was going on in the Samaritan’s life, he made time for the hurting man. No matter the long years of hatred between Jews and Samaritans, he put it aside. No matter the cost of money, he gave it.
So, who is your neighbor? And how will you be neighborly to them?
Neighbors are not just the ones far away, but our literal neighbors. A pastor friend told me about a video introducing Christian writer Hugh Halter’s book. The video was very convicting. Why? So often we judge and condemn our neighbors before we ever get to know them. The Samaritan easily could have done that. In some cases we might feel justified condemning our neighbors. They might be making choices we strongly disagree with, and we are concerned that if we are neighborly, we’ll be misunderstood as though we are affirming their lifestyle. So because we don’t want to be misunderstood as condoning their choices, we distance ourselves. Hugh Halter’s video challenges us that before we condone or condemn, can we first practice friendship? Can we at least open a door for God to work? Can we love like the Good Samaritan did?
Take a look at this challenging video and ask yourself how neighborly God might want you to be.