Sometimes one of Jesus’ parables can be enhanced by putting it into modern vernacular. That way, we can strip away the cobwebs of time and culture to be hit between the eyes with the teaching contained therein!
In Luke 10:25-37 we find what we often call the story of the Good Samaritan. While that is familiar, the real title should be something along the line of “the story of the neighbor” because that is the emphasis of the story! It is actually a mind-blowing presentation of the impact of the law, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (see Luke 10:27-28).
Let’s see what happens when we put some modern day descriptions in the story to bring it closer.
First, the basic incident is common enough. A man is robbed, beaten and left for dead by the road, an occurrence in probably every society in the history of mankind.
Then a pastor comes by and sees the situation. But he moves to the far side of the road; perhaps he was already late for a hospital visit or a committee meeting. A quick prayer may have been uttered and maybe a momentary thought occurred about how someone should do something, but nothing was done.
Fortunately a deacon came by shortly after the pastor, perhaps headed to the same committee meeting or maybe a service club. He also crossed to the other side of the road, perhaps with a thought that if the man owned a gun this would have never happened. But alas …
Then a black man in a “Black Lives Matter” T shirt came along. He came to where the man was, had compassion (Jesus seems to indicate the others did not) and got involved. He applied first aid, took the man to a hospital, paid the required down payment and signed the forms for becoming the man’s guarantor for payment.
Now, I can hear some of you thinking, “Why is Pastor exalting Black Lives Matter members?” I am not, and Jesus was not exalting Samaritans. Like Jesus, I chose the least likely person most of my hearers would ever expect to be the hero in such a situation. I hear what is said around me and I know that in the name of “All lives matter” most of my acquaintances assume superiority to those involved in the black lives matter movement.
Let’s get to the point and see if you get it. Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36). In my paraphrase, I would update it to ask, “Which of these three really believes all lives matter?” But I think it is better to stick with the terminology of the command of God and use “neighbor.” That is convicting enough over the centuries.
You see, what is often forgotten is that Jesus is dealing with the subterfuge of a man who excused himself from the requirement of loving his neighbor by quibbling about what God meant when he said, “neighbor.” This parable was aimed at removing the excuse. The despised Samaritan was the only neighbor this poor man had that day! In case anyone would miss the point, Jesus asked the great pretender who he would identify as the neighbor to the man and the reply was, “The one who showed him mercy.” What a great identification! Jesus then said, “You go and do likewise.”
One of the unintended results of the over-extension of this parable is that Christians have set up many programs to extend mercy and love to our neighbors, and that is good. The problem is that programs are not in view here—the point is personal involvement with people in need, regardless of societal inhibitions, to extend the love and mercy of God. Until we are willing to personally put ourselves on the line, we haven’t learned the lesson.
We are living in a polarized society, very similar to the powder keg of first century Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, with distrust all around, especially of the Roman government. In that context, to be known as the “sons of God” we must be peacemakers (Mat. 5:9).
To that end, I call on all who claim to belong to Jesus to drop the posture of combatants and the slogans of this disjointed world. Step out of your comfort zone, make contact with people who are hurting (some march in protest, some are the objects of protest, many are just ignored on the sideline) and communicate this basic message from God: “Your life matters to me.”
Until we love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot claim to love God with integrity. As long as externals (color, occupation, clothing, etc.) matter us, we do not love our neighbors.