I'm no pastor, nor would I claim to be an official, professional theologian.
I mean, come on. I'm a guy who primarily draws snuggly furries online. If you wanted a pastor, you'd be going to a church.
But I often think about the things theological, and I've certainly done much musing as of late. Particularly, Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan.
Consider that my disclaimer for all text below this paragraph.
If you're not here for theology or religion, you may certainly click away from this link- But please stick around anyway. I want to present you some genuinely good advice.
For your reference, here's the passage in question. After you've given it a read, I'd like to disect it with you and tell you why it's relavant to today.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)
Nice guy, huh? Genuinely, well, good! In fact, this story is so exemplary to many people that to call someone a "good samaritan" is a compliment. We have laws here in the United States even which protect people who, when properly and correctly attempting to save someone's life, cause expected accidental injury- Supposing someone gives chest compressions to a man who's suffered a heart attack, this man cannot be sued in turn for cracking the man's ribs in the process because that action saved the man's life.
They're called Good Samaritan laws.
Of course, while The Bible is undoubtedly for all audiences (In My Humble Opinion), it's meaning can be helped so much more if you are granted the cultural context- I would like to thank the pastors at my church for providing what I know in this regard. (And some light internet research is helping too!)
We will start with this then: "Samaritan" was not at all a good thing to be, and simply by being one, you were shunned.
This is because of the samaritan's ancestral history- They were descendents of the Jewish people who remained in Israel after Assyrian conquest, but one of the biggest offenses was that their ancestors had intermarried with the pagan people the invaders had planted there and had children by them.
(More information can be found here.)
So you know, racism.
More than that, it's a racist, tribalistic and theological tripple-threat of hatred and overall a stark raving mess- And boy howdy it might have even been mutual.
And so, while I have not found outright persecution of samaritans in The Bible, there's certainly sufficient evidence that they were to be avoided (John 4:9)- But I get ahead of myself.
(And again let me remind you that I am no theologian, just a guy who thinks about theology)
Let's start at the actual begining.
This is not the first time Jesus was tested by his fellows in the theological circles. He, as you might already know, said things that ruffled the feathers of the pharisees and sadusees (think political leaders) and teachers of the law. Quite regularly they hoped to catch him off guard and delegitimize him, such as in Mathew 22:15-22. This was one such moment.
I do not however think that Jesus only sought to defend himself here in telling the story. He saw this expert in the law did not have a complete grasp on things and so told a story to illustrate a point.
Here we get to the parable.
I'm learning some things as I write this post, so bear with me here.
We know that since the first man is leaving Jerusalem for Jericho, the presumption to be made is that he was probably Jewish. Life was brutal at times back then, so it was not unexpected that a man traveling alone could be beaten near to death and robbed.
Now Jesus, in telling his parable, could have picked any class of people, but his point would not be so clear if he did not pick those classes that he did.
The first who not only passed, but avoided the dying man, was a priest. These people led worship and handled ceremonies. They were looked up to and considered very holy- Allowed in parts of the temple the regular worshipers were not.
The second who did the same was a Levite. Levites were very respected in The Bible, being a priest class of people, and they handled worship and sacrifice and took care of the temple (my source). Not all of them were priests themselves, but because of their ancestory they were respected nonetheless.
These two I believe were chosen in the story to illustrate nobody is above bad behavior. We put certain people on pedistals and are surprised and devastated when they act out normal, human failures, but this really should surprise no one.
The Samaritan was the twist to this story. As I've stated in the above, "samaritan" was not good. They were considered anything but good, and if my light research holds, they did not like the Jewish people any more than the Jewish people liked them.
This man had no expectation of good behavior from others, unlike the the priest and the Levite- He had no image to uphold and could have simply left, ruining no reputation.
There was no indication that the Jewish man dying on the side of the road would have done the same for him, given their history.
This Samaritan man owed the Jewish man nothing, and his people might have even been able to forgive him if he shrugged his shouders and said "there's nothing I can do".
But not only did the Samaritan help this man, he went above and beyond any expectation of decency- dressing and cleaning his wounds, putting him in the one seat on his ride, that being the Samaritan's own donkey, paying for his stay in the inn and promising to compensate further for whatever is needed to see him recovered.
You know, the Samaritan's enemy.
And when Jesus asked the expert on the law "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor?"- The expert couldn't even bring himself to say "The Samaritan" and copped out with "The guy who actually stopped and helped him".
And Jesus' response was not "So you should really be treating Samaritans better".
It was "Go and do likewise".
Be like him.
Have mercy on those who hate you.
Not a new message for him, but he's even taken it further:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
I think that alone sums up what I'm trying to say, but I'll leave you with this...
Do you want to be good?
Do you want to be better than your enemy?
To be better than the ones who despise you and wish to destroy you? Who will stop at nothing to see it done, using their online and TV platforms to smear your name, and silence you and throw you out of the public square, who will even crush you or shoot you in the back?
Be better to your enemy than they are to you.
Have mercy on those who hate you.
It's what Jesus did for us all.
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.