Here's something to think about today…consider the Good Samaritan parable. Think about that powerful story of Jesus illustrating to us what life looks like from a Kingdom perspective. You may even want to read it (see Luke 10). Great story! Now, what does it mean? REMEMBER, in biblical interpretation, CONTEXT is key. In the context of this section, a religious "expert" ask Jesus about eternal life. Now, the translation of "eternal" here is a bit deceptive because it would probably be BEST translated "abundant" life (something that Jesus talked about often…Kingdom life is eternal life but it is life here and now AND in the future). This "religious" guy is trying to figure out the way to live the best life possible. Jesus say, "live by God's design." You see, the LAW (Torah, first five books of the bible) are really books that lay out God's design for human life. Many people see the Torah as restrictive when Torah was said, at the time of Jesus, to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (sound familiar?). Jesus quotes the Old Testament which he says is summarized as "loving God and loving our neighbor" (a friend of mine, Dr. Scot McKnight calls this "The Jesus Creed").
The expert could be seen as looking for a loophole with his question about the neighbor. You see, for most people loving God is easy…it is a journey that many people feel good about in terms of their worship and prayer life. I don't know many people who would have a problem with God. The BIG problem has to be in loving our neighbor. People, well, they are messy and it is difficult to really love someone else when they are often seen as the source of all our anguish. I've told numerous people that life would be absolutely great if we didn't have other people around. Most of the problems I have in my life are because of people. Think about it…you know I"m right!
Seriously, the issue of, "WHO IS THE NEIGHBOR I'M SUPPOSED TO LOVE" is the contextual background to the parable. The answer Jesus provides in the parable is pretty clear…anyone who is in need. Loving others includes those who we feel comfortable with as well as those who, once we are involved in their lives, "costs" us something. The Samaritan (in the Jews eyes the LEAST LIKELY PERSON to help a Jew who is in the ditch) is the one who loves the broken, outcast and "left for dead."
Maybe you and I feel like we can't make a difference in the world. We are ONE PERSON living on a planet where there is so much suffering and pain. Jesus says, "loving our neighbor" is powerfully healing. We don't see too many people lying in ditches, but we DO see people all the time with needs. For example, TODAY as you share Thanksgiving with your family, there will be someone who is in need. It would be easy to "walk right by" that suffering and hope it goes away on its own. But Jesus is calling you to love the broken. Yes, that might make you uncomfortable…it will cost you something to engage that family member or friend who is seen by some as a real "downer" on a day of celebration. But according to Jesus, loving that "other" is the way TO EXPERIENCE life to the fullest. It just seems to make sense to me. From an interpretive perspective, looking for Jesus in this parable is good but not really the point. Yes, it is good to see how Jesus can be the one who heals the broken or is the broken. I get that…but the CONTEXT tells us differently. The context is about OUR actions and OUR loving of others. It is time, according to Jesus, for us to "go and do the same." Today is a day of thanks…show some mercy to those who push your buttons, or that relative who always complains, or to the person who overcooks your favorite part of the meal. Show some mercy to that child who isn't behaving or to the family member who only wants to sit and watch another football game. For whatever reason, many of the people you may hang out with tomorrow will be "lying in some proverbial ditch"…love them anyway. Jesus says that's the way to really living! Happy thanksgiving friends!