Is there a passage in the Bible or Gospel story more familiar to us than the parable of “The Good Samaritan?” (Luke 10:25-37). A man is traveling on a dangerous road when he’s attacked by bandits, robbed, and left for dead. Two people come by who we believe should care for this man, but they don’t. Then one comes who shouldn’t care, but does. It’s just a simple story of love your enemies right? Of course, this is a beautiful story in which Jesus prompts us to think about whom we consider to be our neighbor. The two people who decided not to stop did not recognize the injured man as their neighbor; after all, he was a stranger to them.
Yes, this is an important story for us to tell and think about, since we are living in a time of major change in which our society has become more ethnically diverse. Our culture, more than ever is a “mosaic” that contains many pieces different from and new to many of us.
But maybe, there’s more going on here? I may be reading more into the story but then, my “editor” is usually in complete agreement. OK, suppose we ask who the “main character” of this story is; doesn’t, the Samaritan get top billing; after all, it’s his parable? But is he really the main character? The injured stranger isn’t just our neighbor but a completely powerless “victim,” who serves as a model for our personal transformation in that he enables us to see how dependent we are on the least of our brethren to know compassion and give of ourselves. His role allows us to “let down our guard” and get out of our “comfort zone,” and not just proclaim our love for our neighbor but to “act out” our love, even though it’s a major inconvenience and the victim is not “one of us.”
Robert Capon Farrar in The Parables of Grace does not see this parable as a model for “niceness.” Jesus’ whole parable, especially with its piling up of detail after detail of extreme, even irrational behavior on the part of the Samaritan, points not to the meritorious exercise of good will but to the sharing of the passion as the main thrust of the story.
Maybe the only way we can truly “help” those who are in need is to recognize how often we have been the victim “left for dead” and completely vulnerable. The Samaritan knew what it was like to be ostracized and persecuted. He could to relate to the victim first-hand. Trading places with strangers in need for no other reason but love, transforms us in a way that changes our view of “who is our neighbor” forever.