Written by Temidayo Akinsanya, Pastoral Resident
The tagline for this blog post is a familiar refrain. It is heard and uttered when a case arises of a police officer or a neighborhood “protector” who kills an innocent man. It is a refrain that is sometimes uttered in the clearest of conscience by those desiring to be fair; by those desiring to have an understanding of the full context before making a judgement. We examine this phrase in the light of the parable of the Good Samaritan as narrated in Luke 10:25-38.
Prerequisites for the Kingdom: 10:25-28
The context for the parable that Christ is about to narrate is the question posed by a lawyer. The lawyer wants to know what are the prerequisites for obtaining eternal life. Jesus gave him two prerequisites. For our context, we can change his question to “What does it take to live day in and day out as a faithful Christian?” The answer Jesus gave is this: love God with all of who you are and love your neighbor as yourself.
The lawyer takes a moment to think about the response as you and I may very well do. He thinks to himself – “I know who my God is. He is the deliverer of Israel. He is the faithful one. He is the God who hates injustice. He is the God who had mercy on lowly Israel. He is the forgiver of sins. He is the God who is slow to anger and is all compassionate.” I know who my God is, he says, but “who is my neighbor?”
It is this question that evokes in Christ the desire to narrate a story involving a man who was beaten and left for dead.
Who is my Neighbor?: 10:29-37
In the parable famously tagged as “The Good Samaritan” there are four major characters. We have the Levite, the Priest, the Samaritan, and a man. Nothing is said of this man except the state of his current predicament. He has been beaten and left for dead. The audience knows this because the narrator has mentioned it but the other three characters are unaware of why this man is laying on the dusty road helplessly. The Priest in his priestly regalia saw the man but walked on. The Levite in his piety looked away. However, when the Samaritan saw the man without knowledge of all the facts; without knowing all the facts surrounding how this helpless and battered man ended up on the road he had compassion. Without knowing whether this man is helpless due to his own wicked actions or the wicked actions of others, he looked at him and did not look away. He had mercy on the man. He moved to empathize with the man. He moved to care for the man. He set aside his preconceived notion on what his day would look like so he can attend to the need in front of him.
We Don’t Need All the Facts
Sometimes we will not have all the facts. Most times we would never get all the facts. But, we don’t need all the facts to have compassion. We don’t need all the facts to have mercy. We don’t need all the facts to empathize. We don’t need all the facts to mourn with those who mourn. We don’t need all the facts to weep with those who weep. We don’t need all the facts to say I’m sorry. We don’t need all the facts to love our neighbor.
In a nutshell, who is my neighbor that I ought to love? My neighbor is that person who is not in my circle. My neighbor is that person who I am not supposed to like; that person who I have no affiliation with; that person who is in need of compassion; that person who is battered and bruised by an unjust system of oppression; that person who does not share my ideological beliefs.
So rather than wait for the facts, let us move to love our neighbors. Let us move to have compassion and empathize with those who are hurting.