But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”Luke 10:29-37
This is perhaps one of Jesus’ most famous parables. And yet, in all of our retelling this famous story, we often miss its remarkably shocking nature. So let me see if I can set it in a modern context for us:
A man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead in the midst of a major city. Soon after, a young, hip, evangelical preacher sees the man and, not wanting to mess up his snazzy new jeans and spiffy shoes, he moves to the other side of the road where does not have to look at him. Not long after that, the head pastor of a large, main-line protestant church comes walking by and sees the scene as he approaches. Afraid of damaging his dapper clothes and being late for his next important meeting, he quickly scurries across the street and keeps moving. Then a woman in a hijab is walking by and sees the battered man on the side of the road. She goes immediately to him, assesses the damage, offers him water, and gets him to a hospital. Going even further, she leaves her own contact information to help with the bills if his insurance is unable to pay.
Now, who was the neighbor to that man?
Hopefully that gives us a little bit better idea of how earth-shattering this parable truly is.
What Jesus is trying to point out to the young man who is testing him by asking, “who is my neighbor?” is that everyone is our neighbor.
Every. Single. Other. Person. On this planet. Period.
It does not matter where they came from. It does not matter what they look like. It does not matter if they are part of your religion or another (because the Samaritans were certainly not a part of Judaism). It does not matter who a person is. Everyone is our neighbor.
This is a very difficult command to follow. It may be simple. But that does not make it easy to live out.
Thomas Merton once wrote, “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.” That is how we live out the parable of the Good Samaritan. That is how we live out the Gospel.
Now go and do likewise.