This Sunday’s parable of the Good Samaritan is among the most popular of all bible stories. Good Samaritan is even a common synonym for philanthropy. Because it’s so familiar, we might too easily miss this parable’s shocking significance to our life circumstances here and now. In Gospel times, Jesus’s Samaritan figure would have been shocking—scandalous. Samaritans were considered unclean, justifiably despicable, to be avoided at all costs. Who would we see as equivalent to that? This figure is beyond simply a foreigner, or a member of a different faith. Who is so beyond my sphere of comfort? Your sphere of acceptance? A member of ISIS? A convicted criminal? Perhaps a drug addict or . . . a family member who has hurt us? We know in our hearts whom we do not consider “a part” of “us”. Christ’s radical call is to recognize this “other” as so completely an equal to me that I cannot help but be “moved to compassion” to the extent that I will spare no expense for their well being.
Christ calls us to something much more amazing and crazy difficult than charity. The parable suggests that there are no differences amongst humans. Our categories and hierarchies of worth are artificially constructed. In God we are one. In and through Christ we—you and I—carry God’s love in the world. The Samaritan parable today is deeply political, ethical, spiritual. Our “neighbours” are waiting to get into our country, from Africa, the Middle East, South and Central America, from Ukraine. Like the injured person in Luke’s gospel, they are unnamed, unidentified, except for their woundedness. They wait by my roadside. How do I respond?