The Good Samaritan: a Deconstructed Parable

Have you ever felt compassion for someone? Have you ever experienced hope from someone you would have never thought could give? Have you ever felt love from someone you call “enemy”? I think it’s safe to say that we have all experienced these situations at least once in our life. You may be asking, “what does this have to do with anything”. Well, the bible can give us a pretty good look at what makes these situations so life changing.

If you read Luke 10:25-37, there’s a very interesting parable. In this story, we can find very practical ways to change our perspective on life and the way that we treat others. Let’s examine this for a minute. We start off with an expert of law who asks Jesus, “How may I inherit eternal life”. This man wasn’t asking because he didn’t know the tradition. This was a highly educated man. He knew the Torah and he knew the government. In that time, both were seen as the same. This man was an expert scholar and an educated theologian of his time. With all that in mind, why was he asking Jesus this question? Well, the Jews weren’t interested in the afterlife. Many of them didn’t believe in one at all. This man was asking because he wanted to test Jesus and see if he could outsmart him much like the other peers and colleagues that this indigent lawman had.

Jesus does something interesting. He asks this man what the law says. Jesus meets this man where he is in his life and becomes relatable. The man answers, “Love God with every part of yourself and love your neighbor just as you would yourself.” Jesus tells the man that he’s right and adds “do this and you will live”. Interesting. Do “this” and you will live. He doesn’t say live forever. He doesn’t say that the man will go to heaven. He says love God and love your neighbor and you will live. This has something to teach us, but I will get to that later on in the article.

As stated before, the man was intelligent. He also appears very prideful. He won’t let Jesus go. He wittily asks Jesus, “who is my neighbor”. Jesus does something profound. He tells the man a story.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one that we hear so often in the Christian world. It’s lost it’s power and meaning much like many of the bible stories we are told time and time again. Before diving into the story, let’s ask ourself a valuable question. What does it mean to live forever?

As most of you probably know, the parable starts out with a Jewish man traveling down a road. Out if nowhere, the Jewish man is ambushed by bandits. The man is beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. A Jewish priest walks by and ignores the dying man by walking on the other side of the road. A Levite passed by and saw the man. He too ignored him by passing on the other side of the road. Finally, a Samaritan walks by and helps the man. He picks the man off the road, takes him to a hotel and pays the fee. The Samaritan requests that anything the man needs should be put on a tab and he will come back and pay it.

When Jesus finishes the story, he asks the man “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hand of the robbers?” The man replies, “The one who showed mercy.”

Why couldn’t he say “the Samaritan”? The Samaritans were looked at as unclean. The were seen as false Jews and were not seen as equal. They were less as human. They were seen as whores: mixing Jewish culture with pagan culture. This is critical to understand in the story. This is real, raw, and offensive under every circumstance.

The Samaritan was a person from a completely different country with a different religion. They had a completely different mindset, way of life, and a different idea of spirituality.

Let’s do this, imagine the story was about a Christian and the person who showed mercy was a Muslim. The one who had life from God was the Muslim. Now imagine the person hurt is a republican. The democrat was the one who had mercy. One last time, the hurt person is a homophobic man and the one who showed the most mercy is Caitlyn Jenner.

Who has life then? Doesn’t God give true life? If the story shows us the people in the margins, are they the ones with real life? These are valuable questions to ask ourselves. With all of these questions, I think it’s our job to include everyone. God is with everyone and can be found within everyone. Why would God turn God’s back on anyone? God loved the world so much that Jesus came as a perfect example of what we need to do to be like Christ. Without Jesus, we wouldn’t possess the abilities to witness a tangible Christ and see his bloodshed as a sign of our need for inclusivity. No longer are we in a temple where only the Jews are accepted by God. Everyone is invited to sit at the table. Every religion, creed, sexual orientation, and every culture.

God isn’t small enough to fit in our boxes. We spend a lot of our time creating theology that shoves God into a shoe box instead of letting God be “all in all”. There is one theology that is supported in this story: Love. God is love. Those who love know God. Don’t believe me? It’s in the Bible.

Love your neighbor, be inclusive, spread the good news of love. Remember, your shoe box is too small to fit God.

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