And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him andbound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
The Good Samaritan
It is amazing how repeated reading of the text draws out a deeper understanding of its meaning. There needs to be a reverence of what the text meant to its original recipients. This creates a domain of possible meaning for the text. I have read this text multiple times over the weekend and all my interpretation is informed by an understanding of what the gospel can mean. The gospel is the communication of good news and I think of Jesus’ parables as making the good news clearer. The gospel assumes that one places one’s life under the authority of Jesus and follows him. When one follows Jesus, one changes the world around them in radical ways. The Jewish teacher of the law understood that he should love his neighbour, but he wanted to set limits on what he was responsible for. However, Jesus removes the limits by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. The essence of the story is that we are to be a neighbour to all people, particularly to our enemies. Our desires for ritual purity and holiness should not keep us from extending God’s grace to all who are in need.
I find it disturbing that many Christians dedicate their lives to forming distinctions in doctrine between themselves and others with whom they have disagreement. I was reading today about some arguments about Meditative (Centering) Prayer and also about Lectio Divina. There is a breadth of understanding of what these terms might mean and some of the definitions fall within Christian orthadoxy and some do not. What I find disturbing is the lack of grace and the lack of love in the discussions. There is sometimes a fear that results in Christians making sure that you know they are on the other side of the street. Of course, I think we should talk about such things. I, personally, will not be using the terms Centering Prayer of Lectio Divina again any time soon. But the sanctified attitude that separates from the wounded world is unhelpful and unbiblical. We need to be a neighbour, as much as it depends on us, with those inside and outside the faith. The world needs to be healed and we need to be generous with our resources. Sometimes we are known more by what we are against than what we are for, and we walk by proudly on the other side of the street.
Father, let us know how to be a neighbour. With those who live near us, with those with whom we work, with those with whom we are alienated, let us be compassionate, kind, and reconciling.
- What questions does the lawyer ask?
- What do you think motivates him?
- What does Jesus want him to understand?
- How do you make sure you are perceived as righteous?
- How do you put aside your sanctified attitude?