Imagine if, in a story told hundreds of years from now, the mention of Al-Qaeda brought to mind for the readers, kindness, compassion and friendliness. Unlikely we’d say. Okay, but what does Samaritan mean to us today?
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, a man who helped a fellow human being in need. A Samaritan seems like such a good fellow now we have a hard time identifying with how an audience back then would have viewed it. We even have ‘Good Samaritan Laws’ on the books to protect those who help others without fear of reprisal.
Samaritans in Jesus’ day were detested and shunned by the Jews. So when Jesus used the Samaritan as the good guy in the story and the priest and Levite as the bad guys, it must have raised more than a few eyebrows of indignation. How dare he say that anything good could come from such a lowlife as a Samaritan?
In order for the story to impact us today, we need to reframe it with our own enemies. Jesus was answering a question “And who is my neighbor?” asked by a lawyer trying to test him. (Luke 10:29) He told a story of compassion but also hypocrisy.
A Samaritan enemy was cast as the hero then. Pretty hard to swallow for those who justified themselves over their so-called moral inferiors. So I wonder, what if we asked Jesus again, Who is my neighbor? The Samaritans are long gone.
Who would he use this time as OUR neighbor?