During our July worship services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, we will be exploring the gospel of Luke, especially the stories in chapters 10-12. The centerpiece of this section is the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. As I ponder this story again, I am realizing that both the question that Jesus is answering by telling the story (“Who is my neighbor?”), and the story itself are becoming more and more vital to our understanding of discipleship and service in our increasingly diverse world.
I have always believed that we need to look at this story from two perspectives. First, through the eyes of the Samaritan, who is willing to stop to assist the man alongside the road who should have been his enemy, we understand just how wide Jesus’ definition of “neighbor” really is (that would be everyone!). But we also need to appreciate the actions of the injured man, who is able to accept help from another person who he would previously considered the “lowest of the low” to the point of being untouchable. For some of us, his behavior is more difficult to accept because following his example means swallowing our pride at the very least. My experience is that many of us good Christian folks are better at giving aid than receiving it, especially from people we don’t know and/or are different than us.
Again, all of this is more and more relevant in a world in which cultural boundaries are rapidly disappearing. The reality is that we don’t have to go far to encounter neighbors that are radically dissimilar to us. The question remains whether we are able to expand our understanding of “neighbor” as much as the Samaritan, the man who accepted his assistance, and Jesus himself.