A lawyer came to Jesus to test him and inquired: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said, “What is written in the law?”
The lawyer answered him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”
Jesus responded, “You have answered right: do this, and you will live.”
To appear righteous and to justify himself, the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
The lawyer was a Jew, and the Jewish spiritual leaders of the time believed that only other Jews were considered neighbors. The obligation of neighborliness did not extend to the Gentiles and definitely not to the Samaritans whom the Jews regarded as “dogs” and “half-breeds.” The Jewish people hated the Samaritans so much that they would sometimes cross the Jordan River on a longer journey rather than travel through Samaria; hence, avoiding the despised tribe.
With this in mind, Jesus related the story now commonly referred to as the “Good Samaritan.”
A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was beset by thieves. They beat him, robbed him, stripped him of his clothes, and left him lying half dead on the road. A priest, a man separated for the work of God, saw the beaten man and avoided him by walking on the other side of the road. Thereafter, a Levite came along. He looked at the bloody, wounded man, examined him, and also passed by on the other side of the road. A Samaritan, loathed by the Jewish people, journeyed down this same road. When he beheld the Jew, naked and beaten, he was moved with compassion.
The Samaritan cleaned, treated, and bandaged the wounds of the Jew. He put him on his animal and took him to an inn. He paid the host to lodge and feed the Jew, leaving instructions to care for him. The Samaritan assured the innkeeper that if more expenses were incurred, he would pay for them upon his return.
Upon finishing the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man that fell among thieves?” The lawyer responded, “The man that had mercy upon him.” Jesus concluded with an admonition and challenge: “Go, and do thou likewise.”
As children of God, we are all called to have the heart and mind of this Samaritan. In a culture of bigotry and prejudice against the Samaritans by the Jews, it was a Samaritan who ministered in love to the needs of a Jew. How interesting that Jesus did not tell of a Jew helping a wounded Samaritan. It should make no difference to children of God whether they are born into a group of the despised or the despisers. We are to be kind and loving to everyone we encounter regardless of tribe, caste, nation, religion, color, or family. This is one of the pillars of Christian living and should differentiate God’s people from their respective societies and cultures. ■