“Just then a religious scholar stood before Jesus in order to test his doctrines. He posed this question:
“Teacher, what requirement must I fulfill if I want to live forever in heaven?” Jesus replied
“What does Moses teach us? What do you read in the Law?” The religious scholar answered,
“It states, ‘You must love the Lord God with all your heart, all your passion, all your energy, and your every thought. And you must love your neighbor as well as you love yourself.’”
Jesus said, “That is correct. Now go and do exactly that and you will live.”
Wanting to justify himself, he questioned Jesus further, saying,
“What do you mean by ‘my neighbor’?” Jesus replied, “Listen and I will tell you.
There was once a Jewish man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when bandits robbed him along the way. They beat him severely, stripped him naked, and left him half dead. Soon, a Jewish priest walking down the same road came upon the wounded man. Seeing him from a distance, the priest crossed to the other side of the road and walked right past him, not turning to help him one bit. Later, a religious man, a Levite, came walking down the same road and likewise crossed to the other side to pass by the wounded man without stopping to help him. Finally, another man, a Samaritan, came upon the bleeding man and was moved with tender compassion for him. He stooped down and gave him first aid, pouring olive oil on his wounds, disinfecting them with wine, and bandaging them to stop the bleeding. Lifting him up, he placed him on his own donkey and brought him to an inn. Then he took him from his donkey and carried him to a room for the night. The next morning he took his own money from his wallet and gave it to the innkeeper with these words: ‘Take care of him until I come back from my journey. If it costs more than this, I will repay you when I return. So, now, tell me, which one of the three men who saw the wounded man proved to be the true neighbor?”
The religious scholar responded, “The one who demonstrated kindness and mercy.” Jesus said, “You must go and do the same as he.” Luke 10:25-37 TPT
Flannel graphs images of a man bleeding beside the road, the arrogant priests walking by on the other side, and the kind Samaritan with his donkey coming to help the man in need: these childish pictures flash through my mind when I think about the story of the Good Samaritan. Yet, as I read it last week, much more jumped out at me.
Consider this. The Jews throughout history have been probably the most hated culture ever. They were subjected to hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt, and every time they turned around, they were being conquered again, overrun, tortured, hated. Why? Because they were Jews. Not so long ago, Hitler tried to exterminate them. Even today, countries surrounding them want to wipe them off the face of the earth.
At the time of Jesus, they struggled under the oppressive rule of the Roman thumb, which was a cruel, harsh regime. Read the story of the Maccabees to get a better understanding.
What did the Jewish people do then? They turned around and despised their neighbors, the Samaritans. There’s a ton of history I could go into here, but basically the Samaritans came from the same lineage but broke off because of where they chose to worship and their intermixing with cultures around them. They became a mixed breed. They were considered lower than dogs to the Jews.
Jesus has a way of getting to the heart of the matter with the religious leader. In a matter of moments, he pulled back the curtain on this man’s heart. The beat-up man was a Jew, and the religious leaders who chose to overlook their brother’s brokenness, by conveniently crossing to the other side of the road so as not to be bothered, were also obviously Jews. Maybe this was even a story that this leader knew about. However, the compassionate man, the one who came to the aid of the Jew, was the despised one that the Jewish man would have spit on and cursed.
Jesus looked at the religious leader and asked him, “Who proved to be the good neighbor?” He was dealing with a ton more here than what I learned in Sunday School. He was dealing with the religious leader’s prejudices, his hatred of Samaritans.
Dear friends, racism and prejudices have been around since Cain killed Abel. It’s brother against brother. Neighbor against neighbor. Slavery, clan against clan, one people group against another, one person’s skin color against another. It is a part of all our histories, all our generations, all of our stories.
I don’t say this to belittle the current state our country is in, in dealing with racism. By all means, it’s about time the roots and organizations that have fed this monster be brought to the light and dealt with in truth and justice.
Jesus always looked past the surface and dealt with what was in men’s hearts. The answer to racism is not more laws or violent protests or defunding the police.
The answer is Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. The answer is Love your neighbor as yourself.
So, when we see someone different than us hurting, bleeding, beat up, we take the time to stop, to care for them, to bandage their wounds, and get them help, even when it costs us time, money, and resources.
We stop ignoring the pain, the hurt. We stop conveniently looking the other way, which the church seems to be notorious for doing. We stop wagging our fingers at each other, judging the others differently than ourselves.
We look in the eyes of our brothers and sisters, we see their pain, and we comfort and help them however we can. We stand up for justice, for making things as right as we can. We choose to forgive and release the pain of the past so that we can move forward. Together.
However, this goes both ways, for there is pain on both sides. There was pain on the Jews’ side and the Samaritan side, even the Roman side. Jesus knew this. That’s why, in telling this story, He made all men our neighbors.
The answer is love. Not human love through humanitarian efforts. It’s the unfailing, unending love of God through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is where true reformation begins. This is where true unity begins.
A house divided against itself will fall. This is why the enemy is fighting so hard to divide and conquer. We can, we will, we must choose into love if we are to continue as a great nation. It is the only solution for a broken world. “For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Son, that whatsoever we will believe in Him, will have eternal life…” John 3:16. This is the radical group I want to align with. They will know we are Jesus’ followers by the way we love one another. We all have choices to make. Choose love.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on wholeheartedwomen.org.
Featured image by Markus Spiske