Luke 10:36-37 (CEV)
36 Then Jesus asked, “Which one of these three people was a real neighbor to the man who was beaten up by robbers?”
37 The teacher answered, “The one who showed pity.”
Jesus said, “Go and do the same!”
Challenging Our View Of The “Other”
While getting ready to write this study, Trevor came across a blog post on ‘The Good Samaritan’ that really upended my understanding of the passage. Written by Jason Micheli, the post raised an interesting thought: what if the point of the story wasn’t to shame us or guilt us into responding with love to somebody else? What if the point of the story was to confound us with a truth that would un-do all of our “us” vs. “them” theology once and for all?
Like it or not, we all have prejudice. No matter how ‘enlightened’ we are, we have preconceived ideas and notions that jump out ahead when we here certain names, encounter people from certain backgrounds, or think of individuals who hold certain sets of beliefs. (If you don’t believe me, try taking the Implicit Association Test.)
On top of our inbuilt biases world events or personal experiences tend to skew our views further to one side or another. When we are caught up in traumatic events, this becomes all the more challenging to avoid. And apparently, according to Micheli, that was the case for Jesus’ first listeners. Apparently there had been an event just a few years previously where a group of Samaritans (and the Jews hadn’t loved them before this) had gone into the Jewish temple (that they didn’t think was in the right place, and therefore didn’t accept as a sacred space) and killed a bunch of people, leaving dead bodies lying around in the place the Jews saw as sacred. Needless to say, this kind of terrorist act left people reeling, and just served to entrench the degree to which the Jews hated the Samaritans.
And so Micheli asks the question, ‘what if the point of the story was to show us that that person who we see as deplorable – shameful, disgraceful, unworthy, inexcusable, unforgiveable – might be not just the neighbour to whom we should offer care, but might well be the neighbour to whom our very life depends?’
What would it look like if the white supremacist owed his life to a muslim refugee?
What would it look like if the bank manager owed his life to the homeless man who squatted in his doorway every night?
What would it look like if the CEO owed his life to the drug addict?
What would it look like if the libertarian owed his life to the conservative?
What would it look like if the native protestor owed his life to an oil tycoon?
What would it look like if the black lives matter protestor owed his life to a police officer?
What if any of those were backwards?
What happens if we start to see ourselves as deeply interdependent with the people we desperately wanted to distance ourselves from?
What does it do to our view of ourselves, our view of each other, our view of God, if the lines are blurrier and less defined than we previously thought?
I think that’s the question this story is asking … It isn’t a question of trying harder. It’s not a matter of feeling ashamed more often. Not a matter of feeling more guilt. I think it’s a question of looking for the humanity in the person we had written off as beyond us – deplorable to us. Looking for the thing that helps us see that deep down the things we have in common are far bigger than the things that make us different.
So, who is your neighbour?Journal Questions:
- If you’re honest, is there a group of people that you think of as deplorable?
- If you were lying on the side of the road half-dead, who would be the last group you would want to have show up and help you?
- What makes them shameful, disgraceful, unworthy, inexcusable, unforgiveable to you?
- What would it look like to go out and find examples of someone from that group acting as ‘neighbours’ to someone? Would you be willing to try?
- If you do, I would challenge you to rewrite the story of the Good Samaritan using one of the acts of neighbourliness you found. I’d love to hear your stories.