During an election year, people become more vocal about candidates, what they do or do not believe and whether they have the interests of all of us at the center of their policies and goals “for the future of America.”
Not a day goes by that you cannot read or see on the news the latest information about candidates. This year the hot button topics include immigration reform, tax cuts, the energy policies and our response to a variety of social concerns. No matter what your political leanings, the nature of who is “in” and who is “out” will stir even the most calm person into heated discussions.
We can find many parallels to political agendas in the story from Luke about the Good Samaritan. In the story of the Good Samaritan the idea of who will help and who will not is a central focus. The parable discusses the nature of those who either walked past the beaten man lying on the road or the one person who stopped to help. Admittedly, there are very few of us who would not have stopped to help the obviously seriously injured man. But in many other ways, we have to admit that we ignore the needs of others, may injure people by a negative attitude, or even hurt them by abuse, either verbal or physical.
Take for example, a man or a woman who is standing at an intersection by a traffic light, holding a sign asking for help. We can rationalize that we cannot stop in traffic. In fact, we may be glad that the light changes so we can move through the intersection rather than figure out what we should do. Some people have said that the persons who do this have other options. Others of us may just be in a hurry and the idea of stopping to help is not as high a priority as getting to our destination on time.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the teacher of the law asks Jesus “and just who is my neighbor?” In other words, just where does his responsibility fall? Does helping a “neighbor” have limits? He may have wished to limit just who his neighbor might be. Do we only help persons of the same ethnicity as our own or only those who belong to a particular religion or socioeconomic class? Do we only help persons who are “just like me” and not “them?”
By contrast, the Good Samaritan was helping the injured man unconditionally with no regard for his status, religion or personal beliefs. He not only took care of his wounds, he fed him and left him in the care of an innkeeper with enough money to cover expenses. He also promised to return and settle up with the innkeeper if there were more outstanding bills.
The Samaritan was an “outsider.” He would be despised by the local populace of Jews because he was, in their minds, a gentile. He broke all conventions. I can see a parallel to Jesus and his ministry in this story. Neither did Jesus make distinctions on who deserved help, forgiveness and mercy. His message crossed all lines or categories. Like the Samaritan, people despised Jesus; in fact, enough to want him crucified. Yet, he made sure that any person who believed in him would find healing and a place in God’s inn free of charge.