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We love stories. Telling them, hearing them, and thinking about them. It’s why we have a favorite movie, book, or television series. And the main reason is that they draw us in while accessing our hearts as much as our heads. We can picture ourselves in them, relate to them, and genuinely feel invested in them.

In His earthly ministry, Jesus often spoke in stories that we called parables. There are at least 30 of them in the Gospels. Jesus often spoke in confusing ways that were hard for even His original followers to understand. So, parables were like painting a picture. They didn’t just tell the story; they showed the story.

And like any good story, His listeners find themselves in these stories. But it’s often not where we think we would find ourselves. And some of Jesus’ parables are perplexing. They make us do a deep dive.

Luke 10
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, (prove himself righteous) so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.
35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

This story, as all parables are, is specifically set up to drive home a point. Every part and every image was picked very intentionally by Jesus. He’s challenging an idea we all subtly hold – that faith is mainly about believing the right things. Jesus says it’s about something else.

In this story, the wrong character is at the center of it. A Samaritan. This is not someone Jesus’ audience would have felt any sympathy for. That’s on purpose. It forces His listeners then, and us now, to not easily identify ourselves with the good guy – the protagonist. We like to do that with Bible stories.

We always see ourselves on the side of good, but what if we’re not?

Priest and Levite – these were the ones everyone looked at as the epitome of righteousness, meaning they believed right and avoided wrong.

Believing right and avoiding wrong doesn’t equal doing good.  

This is especially true when it comes to those who carry the very image of God. This thing we call living in faith isn’t abstract or hypothetical. It’s incredibly practical and tangible. It’s simple but hard.

The other thing about Jesus’ choice of the Priest and Levite is that they would have represented professional worshippers. Those were the people who worshipped God well. They knew the religious things to do and the Scriptures better than anyone.

And this is the point Jesus drives home…

Knowledge plus avoidance doesn’t equal holiness.  

So, what does “love your neighbor” look like? It’s simple, but it’s hard. It’s difficult, costly, messes up your schedule, and is controversial because of the people you’ll have to get close to. And so, this scholar of the law who asked the questions, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?” is looking for something that can justify what he’s already doing. And so are all of us.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re not the Samaritan in the story nearly as often as we’d like to think we are.  

We’re more often the Priest, the Levite, or the scholar.

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

~ G.K. Chesterton

There’s something else, and we see it in how the story ends. Robbers attacked a man – why is that important? Evil will always exist in the world until Jesus comes back. It’s equal opportunity. It’s arbitrary. 

We should work to minimize it, but we’ll never make it go away. The world is inherently broken and sinful.  

What we DO in response to evil when and where it happens, regardless of who it happens to, is the most important thing.   

We don’t get to use the excuse of it always being there to sit it out. This is the issue with only offering thoughts and prayers from a distance. We also have this way of judging the victims.

“Well, if only they hadn’t been there, at that time, wearing that, with those people, engaged in that behavior. They believed the wrong things, belonged to the wrong group.”

And we use those things as excuses, to stand back, to disengage. Again, more often than we care to admit, we more easily identify with the protagonist in these stories. This habit is directly counter to the heart of God.

Samaritans were the people who were close at hand and were not like the people in Jesus’ audience – the Jewish people.

Why did they hate Samaritans?

They married the wrong people and had a very different view of religion and worship.

Who are our Samaritans?

Who is YOUR Samaritan?

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