go and do likewise

I woke up early this morning with a thought. Clear as day. I am certainly not the first person to think this, of course, but I felt compelled to write it down and share it anyway. What I’m about to write, however, is rather obvious. You will likely discover no startling new findings here.
GS Stained Glass
In the Gospel of Luke 10.25-37 Jesus is approached by a man, a teacher of the law, asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers him with a question: “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”

The man replies with a quotation taken from two places in the Hebrew Scriptures. At other times in the gospels Jesus refers to these passages as the Greatest Commandment in all of Scripture, the one that summarizes the law and the prophets, the one on which all of the law and the prophets hang: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

Jesus then tells the man that if he does this, if he keeps this commandment, he will have the eternal life he seeks. But the man is not finished. Luke tells us he wants to “justify” himself, so he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And that is when Jesus tells the parable we refer to as “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

We all know the story, or a good portion of it. A man is beaten by the roadside and left for dead. Two religious  types, a priest and a Levite, walk by and decide not to get involved. Instead, Jesus says, the one who gets involved, the one who shows mercy, is a despised Samaritan. The hero of the story is the one who is normally judged, prejudged, maligned, and made the butt of jokes. It was a shocking twist for those who first heard it.

In the late 1960’s Clarence Jordan translated the New Testament into his “Cotton Patch” version, folksy interpretative translations set amid the southern racism and realities of his day. When it came to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jordan famously recast the characters as people readers in the south (indeed the nation) might find just as shocking as Jesus’ first hearers found the Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. The story takes place in Georgia during the Civil Rights era, the man beaten is a white man, the two who pass by are a preacher and a worship leader, and the one who shows the man mercy is a black man. Sadly, Jordan’s reimagining still shocks and has meaning today for those who have ears to hear.

In the 1980’s, when Kim and I were a part of a Youth With A Mission team on outreach in South Africa, the team “performed” a version of the parable called, “The Parable of the Good Punk Rocker.” I’m sure we all thought that was pretty edgy at the time. The truth is, we would have been edgier and more to the point if we had simply stuck with Clarence Jordan’s cotton patch version. How did we not see that?

The thought that popped into my head this morning, however, (and you are probably way ahead of me, already) is that another recasting of the characters is not too hard to imagine, yet again. If Jesus were telling that story today, I am convinced that the Samaritan would be replaced by a Muslim. Many of us today would be shocked and disturbed by Jesus’ choice of characters, once again. And, once again, that says far more about those of us listening to the story than it does about Muslims.

In this retelling, Jesus now looks at you and me and asks, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by robbers?”

Our answer? If we have any understanding of justice and mercy at all, any awareness of the subversive nature of Jesus’ teaching, any willingness to look within ourselves,  any openness to the work of the Spirit in our lives, we would reply, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Who are our neighbors? Those like us, those unlike us, and absolutely everyone in between. How are we to relate to our neighbors? We are to love them as the Samaritan loved the one left for dead on the side of the road. We are to love them as we love ourselves.

We are to “Go and do likewise.”
Gallery | This entry was posted in love, Missional Living, Scripture, Sin, Spirituality, Unity. Bookmark the permalink.

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