There’s someone missing in most of our discussions of the Good Samaritan, which is possibly Jesus’ most well-known parable.
This story is such a part of our cultural DNA that even those who do not consider themselves people of faith know what “a Good Samaritan” is and agree it is admirable.
And the modern definition of “a Good Samaritan” hews fairly close to the original story: someone who stops to help a stranger in trouble.
But of course for those of us who call ourselves Christians, there is a deeper and harder call within this story.
It’s not just about extending goodwill and literal help when happenstance provides the circumstances of someone in need right in front of us.
Jesus calls us to notice that the priest and the Levite, the religious authorities and supposedly models of ethical rectitude, leave the beaten man in the ditch and pass by.
It was the Samaritan, the outsider, reviled and excluded and considered unholy, who stopped and helped and ensured the continuing care of a man who possibly would never have spoken to him in other circumstances.
It is all the more remarkable, as a clergy friend pointed out to me this week, that just a few verses ago, Jesus got rejected by a Samaritan village and the disciples wanted to call down fire upon them. Now the Samaritan is the hero!
These are all familiar interpretations that many of us who have been around the church for a few years have heard and taken to heart.
We hear and understand the call to love and care across boundaries and borders of prejudice, receiving Jesus’ teaching that our enemy is our neighbor whether we like it or not.
Now, living into that call is something else entirely, which is why it is so helpful that the story of the Good Samaritan returns to us year after year in the lectionary, pricking our conscience as we think about those we discount and discard.
The crisis of migrants at our borders and how our government is treating them in our name makes this story all the more painful and galvanizing.
But what struck me this time around is the person that most of our Good Samaritan sermons and reflections leave out.
Who are we not talking about?Continue reading