Reflecting on Luke 10: 25-37
The astonishing thing about scripture is that it keeps smacking us in the face. Every year I notice hidden gems in stories that have been hiding in plain sight my entire life. The iconic parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example.
Recall that at the beginning of the story a lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. We know that he is well versed in the Law because he then quotes sections of both Deuteronomy (6:5) and Leviticus (19:18). These crucial sections of the Law require that we love God with all our strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. But, asks the lawyer, who is my neighbor? At the time of Jesus some groups began suggesting that kindness should be extended not only to those who were in covenant with God (the Jews) but to those outside the covenant as well. So when the young man asks Jesus to weigh in on this important social justice issues, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
But here’s where we get one of those great surprise endings that Jesus loves. All these years I’ve been thinking that Jesus is telling the scholar of the Law that even the poor guy who gets assaulted and robbed should be considered his neighbor. The loathsome Samaritan, well outside the accepted gene pool, understands that and helps the victim with heartwarming kindness.
Am I the only one who thought the neighbor in the story is the robbery victim, and the Samaritan is the one who acknowledges that and helps him? How have I never realized that the neighbor is the Samaritan himself? Jesus asks the lawyer which of the passers-by was the neighbor to the robber’s victim. If we are the love our neighbor as ourselves, it appears that Jesus wants us to love the Samaritan (the neighbor in the story,) as we love ourselves. The one who acts with compassion is to be loved as much as we love ourselves.
Our neighbors, then, are the members of Project Hopeful, who adopt orphans from Ethiopia suffering from HIV. Our neighbors are also those who move to Ethiopia in order to care for children whose mothers must work outside the home all day, but who desperately want to keep their children with them.
Our neighbor is four-year-old Hannah Turner, who, in 2004, gave her pink socks to a homeless man whose feet looked cold. Today, Hannah’s Socks provides clothing and shelter to hundreds of needy people in Toledo every winter.
Who’s my neighbor? In this story it’s not the victim. It’s the one who works for justice for the victim. And that makes it, indeed, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Have you ever encountered an unexpected “neighbor”?