The parable of the Good Samaritan is known to most people. A lawyer prods Jesus about what one must do to inherit eternal life. When Jesus asks what is written in the law, the lawyer responds: you must love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and you must love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus agrees, and says, “Do this, and you will live.” Then Luke says the lawyer wanted “to justify himself,” and prodded Jesus further to explain, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds with a story of a man beaten, robbed and left for dead. Two holy men pass by on the other side of the road and offer no aid. A Samaritan man then comes along, takes pity on him, cares for him, and pays for a room at the inn for the man to recover. Jesus asks the lawyer which of the three men were a neighbor to the beaten man, and the lawyer replies, “The one who showed him mercy,” to which Jesus says, “Go and do likewise.”
Was this simply a story of which man behaved humanly, number 1, 2, or 3, it would be a wonderful reminder of our need to care for those who are wounded, and that those who ignore the sick are not following the path of eternal life. But the story is was more subversive than that. The two men who ignore the injured man are religious leaders of Jesus’ audience. The one who showed mercy, however, was a member of a group despised by Jesus’ audience. A modern day equivalent of this might involve two preachers walking by a beaten man, while a member of Hamas comes to the man’s aid.
As we navigate so much unrest locally, nationally, and globally, I hope we can think again about this parable. I hope we can look through titles and tribes, to see beyond labels and stereotypes, and see one another again anew. I hope we can listen to one another more than listen about one another. I hope we can look for our shared humanity with those our tribe’s leaders tell us we have nothing in common with. I hope we can keep in mind the ultimate answer for how we can love our neighbors as ourselves – to show one another, especially those who are different than us, mercy.
Nathan Dickson is an attorney with Jinks, Crow & Dickson, P.C.