Friday, October 02, 2009

Good Samaritan

"Good Samaritan" has worked its way so deeply into our vernacular that we say it often without giving a second thought of what that really means. Ask your average Christian and they'll likely reply, "it's a parable from Jesus about loving your neighbor." But is it? Yes, that was what Jesus instructed before the parable, but the story was in response to the question, "who is my neighbor?" We pick up the answer in Luke 10:30:

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins 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.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:30-37)

What's important was that the "neighbor" wasn't the religious or the priestly. Rather, it was a member of a different race, from a different country, reviled by the Jews- a Samaritan. "Good Samaritan" has become synonymous with a "Good Neighbor" (Like a Good Samaritan, State Farm is There). But we forget that the one who showed love did so despite cultural, racial, and religious differences.

How many of those in need that we see do we shrug off because of race or looks? Even when sharing our faith it is tempting to only share with those who are just like us. But the parable isn't about helping out someone in need, it's about overcoming our own bias and bigotry to love everyone regardless.

So with that in mind, I lift up Billy Cretan who is enjoying a bit of celebrity for being exactly what a Good Samaritan is by saving the life of a boy trapped in a fire. If you just read the article, there's no indication of race or culture of Cretan, but you can immediately guess that the boy saved, Christopher Ramcharran, was from a different background. Now the article has been updated to note that Billy proposed to his girlfriend Desiree Guzman giving further evidence of Cretan's race. Watching the video shows explicitly the differences in culture and race.

But that didn't stop him from helping. If you've seen Crash or Falling Down, you might think such an act is impossible. In an urban melting pot, minority groups are often portrayed as minding their own business, keeping to their own. But here was a man who overcame any cultural boundaries because a boy's life was more important than his race or religion. Good Samaritan indeed.

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