The lesson of the Good Samaritan means more
February 19, 2017
Filed under Letters to the Editor
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We’re better than this. If you can’t see this, then we, collectively as an institution of higher learning, are failing you. I don’t hear my fellow students “whining about finding a solution.”
I hear people from all over our planet coming together, wherever we may gather, galvanized by injustice, to proclaim that we will not accept mistreatment of our neighbors.
Just who are our neighbors? This was the message of Jesus’ parable with the Samaritan. In the story a lawyer (an expert in the Law of Moses) attempted to test Jesus by asking him just “who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus then recounts the story, which you have reduced to a lesson regarding mercy.
It is that, and so much more.
In the story, Jesus never mentions that the wounded man is a Jew. It is likely that his audience would have inferred this since they were Jewish; however, in the story, Jesus intentionally makes it so that the man cannot be identified.
The man is said to have been stripped and beaten (Luke 10:30), and we never hear him speak. By doing this, Jesus makes him an “any man” figure…he is thus devoid of social position, ethnic background, or religion.
In order to understand the full context of the parable, we need to examine some of the possible motivations behind the inaction of the priest and the Levite.
The priest risked defilement by even approaching a non-Jew, and how could he know if the man had been stripped. The Levites assisted the priests in the temple and would have been subjected to many of the same rules. T
his road, between Jericho and Jerusalem, which is only 17 miles in length, drops approximately 3,000 feet in altitude. It was treacherous, and known as the “Way of Blood” due to the many robbers that operated here.
It’s quite plausible that the priest and Levite suspected something nefarious upon seeing this man on the side of the road.
The Samaritan, who was not a gentile, was also subject to many of the same rules governing cleanliness.
The Samaritan would not have been from this area, and this man would certainly not have qualified as his neighbor. In fact, there was great animosity between Samaritans and Jews in this time, something that is, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this discussion.
Yet the Samaritan helps this man. He risks defilement by caring for his wounds and bringing him to a nearby town.
He forfeits his anonymity by staying at the inn overnight, paying 2 denarii (about 2 day’s wages in those days), and then says that he will return to compensate the innkeeper for further costs.
He does this without any expectation that he will be paid back.
Then Jesus asks the lawyer: “Which of these three [out of the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan] do you think proved to be a neighbor…”
And the lawyer answered: “The one who showed mercy toward him.”
Jesus responds: “Go and do the same.”
Our global neighbors are now in need of mercy. As you so pointedly stated: the Samaritan “had the means…he paid because he could afford to.”
We, as a country, now have the means to aid our neighbors. Will we show mercy and remain consistent with our national heritage of welcoming the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses?
You ask “Why so much controversy over refugees…?”
The answer is within you…and everyone who feels the uncomfortable dissonance when our ideals are compromised.
We are witnessing a departure from the very essence of what makes us Americans: our capacity for mercy.
Our melting pot isn’t broken. You don’t appear to be a Native American. Your ancestors came here as immigrants…as did mine.
How will history judge us when we were offered the opportunity to extend mercy to our neighbors, and instead people spoke in terms of “It’s only 90 days. It isn’t a lifetime.”?
How many pictures of children washing up on Turkish beaches, or kids who have been victims of airstrikes, will it take before you realize that 90 days is indeed a lifetime to some?