One must feel for our young people living in today’s world where “individual rights” trump communal responsibility; “victims” who claim justice/empathy when they are in fact the perpetrator of some adverse act; “love” of the individual being distorted to mean solely, or at least predominantly, self-gratification and perversely promoted as “good”; religion/prayer being expelled from state-controlled schools and other institutions on the grounds of “lacking respect” for others; entrenched racism and so on. The list is very long. It must surely be bewildering to them when they read Luke’s Gospel story today of the “Good Samaritan”. Two words, “Good” & “Samaritan” are used to which they are not exposed in an overtly God-focussed way in our secular world, largely because God is being scripted out of their lives. So, what’s the “Good Samaritan” story all about? It’s all about how each of us, as a baptised disciple of Christ, must live a virtuous life founded on Christ’s mores and values.
In Jesus’ time, Samaritans were regarded as defiled “half-Jews” because of intermarriage with their captors who held opposing views to the Jews about Israel and the Torah (the first five books of the Bile), and because they remained with them after they were freed from Babylonian captivity. Jews of Jesus’ time despised them. They wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street as a Samaritan, such was their disdain for them. But likewise, the Samaritans considered the Jews as lesser people than they were. All in all, not a great recipe for neighbourly kindness!
Jesus is a radical teacher! He cops none of this nonsense. He is focussed solely on the love God has for us, as His treasured creations – not as this ethnic group or that, or this religion or that. When asked what a “good” neighbour looks like, Jesus gives the example of the “Good Samaritan” – a virtuous person who goes the extra mile out of selfless love. Now you might think that being a Jew, Jesus might use a Jew as the virtuous person in the story (helping the despised victim of violence, left half dead from his beating by brigands). But no. Jesus uses the example of a passing Samaritan who dispenses selfless love on the victim (it’s not known whether the victim is Jew or Samaritan). The victim’s race mattered nought to the Samaritan. He showered him with real love not just in rescuing him but in taking care of him even going the extra mile of paying for his recovery. Jesus holds up the very antithesis of the then-current Jewish custom, the Samaritan no less, as THE example of a good neighbour, a virtuous person, a Good Shepherd!
Jesus gives us the example of neighbourly affection as being equivalent to real Christian love – a commitment of always willing good (like health, happiness, truth, moral rectitude, salvation, and self) for the other as other. A commitment which surrenders judgement & self-interest to communal best interest; which relinquishes self-gratification for sacrifice for the other; which respects the religiosity of others as brothers and sisters in Christ pending reconciliation through Jesus the Christ. It is a transformational love which builds up the other and community in God’s love – rather than destroying it through pursuit of self and self-interest and worse, self-righteousness.
The truth and real joy, and not just a great hope for today, is that Christ’s love is indeed alive and will triumph over the scepticism, even the cynicism of our world described earlier. All is not lost. We baptised disciples of Christ just need to be virtuous or Good Australians in the true Christian sense.