Jesus preached (by word and example) a lot about love. Love for God and love for others. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10: 27b), He said. That is what love is. It may be easy to say you “do not hate” others, perhaps even to say that you “love” others; but to really love everyone? To treat others as you would treat yourself, or want others to treat you? To treat everyone as if they were those dearest to you? Some might even say “of course” to that. That is the way we should live, is it not?
It may be easy to say you “do not hate” others, perhaps even to say that you “love” others; but to really love everyone?
But wait, who are “the others”? Who is your “neighbour”? If we get to really think about that, some might stop.
Who should I love in the same way as I love my dear parent/partner/child? Who should I treat as if he or she were one of these people just mentioned? That is exactly the question an “expert in the law” once asked Jesus. Being an expert in the law, he might have thought that Jesus had perhaps a convenient definition for “neighbour”. Surely it would not include the Romans? People would rebel at the thought of being asked to love the Romans.
People would rebel at the thought of being asked to love the Romans.
Jesus answered with a parable (Luke 10: 30–35). A man was attacked while travelling and left half dead, with nothing on him. He practically had nothing left, especially to strangers seeing him on the ground. What would you think and do if you saw such a man in the middle of nowhere? Well, a priest and a Levite — two holy, good and well-respected people in the eyes of those who were following Jesus and listening to him — passed him by, “on the other side”. What?!
But then another man came. He stopped, gave him all the aid he could give him right there and then and took him somewhere where he would be taken care of. With money and a promise of more he made sure that that stranger would indeed be taken good care of.
Who was this man? A Samaritan. And who were the Samaritans of the time? More importantly, what would the typical person listening to Jesus think of a Samaritan? S/he would probably despise a Samaritan. At the very least, look down on him, and would not want to have anything to do with him. S/he would believe that a Samaritan was condemned for eternal damnation. Samaritans couldn´t even serve as witnesses in Jewish courts and were publicly cursed. The typical Jew of Jesus´ time would literally go out of his way to avoid passing from Samaritan land when travelling. For most, the Samaritans were the most hated or despised of people, perhaps even more than the Romans or the tax collectors.
One would expect the Samaritans to have more or less the same feelings towards the Jews. Let´s assume that this Samaritan was a good man because of what he did, and he did not harbour such feelings towards the Jews. But he would know how the person on the ground, the person he was helping, would usually see him. He would know that in all probability, if it were the other way round, that man wouldn´t help him, he could even spit on the ground while passing him by.
Who would your Samaritan be?
Who would your Samaritan be? Who are those people you despise or look down on? Think of as “bad” people, condemned for eternal damnation? Who are those people you would be afraid to be seen with for fear of being ostracised by your own? Those people you would never trust?
Would they be the local rich or poor? The homeless? Muslim extremists, terrorists or fanatics? Right-wing Christians or Christian liberals? Homosexuals, transgender people? Homo- or trans-phobes? People from across the political divide? A murderer? A corrupt politician or businessman? Drug traffickers? The people next door? The brother or sister who stole your inheritance? The colleague who lied about you? Who did you a wrong turn after how well you treated him/her? Who?
Think about that for a moment and therein lies your answer. Go and love those people as yourself. Treat them as you would treat those dearest to you. Think of the good Samaritan of this parable and as Jesus said to the law expert who asked the question, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10: 37b)