So, what can we learn from this Good Samaritan?
- Loving your neighbor means crossing barriers of hostility. In the story, a Priest and a Levite went out of their way to avoid a man who had been attacked and left for dead. Barriers of race, religion, purity and fear prevented them from showing mercy to him. In the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul describes how Christ has abolished these barriers of hostility, saying that Christ has “made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.”[ii] Are there any visible or invisible barriers of hostility or dividing walls of animosity that prevent us from loving our neighbors?
- Loving your neighbor means embracing diversity. The parable does not mention if the hurting man was a Jew or a Gentile. This omission is significant. No matter the man’s religion, race or creed, the fact is that he was hurting and in need of a neighbor’s love. Reserving our love for only those who are like us and those who we like will eventually lead us toward division and discrimination. On the other hand, Jesus teaches us to embrace diversity because he emphasizes friendship with outcasts and the powerless. In other words, the gospel shows no favoritism. It transcends race, socio-economics, age, gender, and aptitudes while embracing diversity.
- Loving your neighbor means caring for practical needs where the need is great. The Good Samaritan provided for the hurting man through first aid, transportation, some money, and a safe place to stay. Caring for practical needs includes providing care for people outside of the church building. It requires us to befriend people on the road, and seek to truly understand their needs. You might be surprised how quickly and abundantly the Lord will provide for your neighbor if your heart is willing to help.
- Loving your neighbor can be risky, even dangerous. According to the text, the Good Samaritan felt compassion toward the man on the side of the road. His compassion was proven by his willingness to risk his own life to help a dying man. The robbers could have still been hiding, waiting patiently to attack the Samaritan, too. But he thought stopping to help was worth the risk. By helping someone else, you often open yourself up to spiritual and physical attack. Loving your neighbor can put you in harm’s way because you become the vulnerable one.
- Loving your neighbor is costly. Helping the hurting man cost the Good Samaritan a minimum of two denarii, or two days wages, not to mention 24 hours with his family. In short, the Good Samaritan believed that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive, regardless of the cost.
- Loving your neighbor is messy. The Jewish religious leaders saw the hurting man as an obstacle to their purity, but the Samaritan saw an opportunity to help a person in need. I’m sure the Samaritan got messy in the process of tending to the bloody man. I don’t think the donkey ride to the inn was a clean one. Loving your neighbor can be messy, so get ready to embrace the mess and get your hands dirty!
There is no doubt that we have much to learn from the Good Samaritan, but he is not the true hero of the story. The true hero of the story is the Story Teller, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the hero because He alone justifies us from our sin. Therefore, we don’t need to attempt to justify ourselves any longer. By Christ’s blood, we have been vindicated, acquitted, reconciled, and forgiven. The cross is the best example of loving one’s neighbor, and Jesus is our True Good Samaritan. Because of the cross, we are set free to love our neighbors – especially those who look, dress, talk and behave differently from us. And we cannot help but feel compassionate toward our neighbors, our hurting friends, yes, even our enemies.
[i] Luke 10:25-37.
[ii] Ephesians 2:14.