The American Samaritan

A thought–a devotion–a plea–a confession–based on Luke 10:25-36.

Just then a theologian stood up to test the teacher. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked the teacher, “And who is my neighbor?” the teacher replied:

A man was going down from Chicago to St. Louis, and his car went across some black ice, hit a bridge, and rolled over into a ditch, throwing him out and leaving him half dead on the side of the road.

Now by chance a pastor was driving down that road with his family, but when he saw him, he passed by in the other lane, saying to his bickering children: “We are already late for our service today, and our musician is already stranded from the storm.”

So likewise a scholar, when she came to the place and saw him, passed by in the other lane, saying to herself, “It might not be safe for me to stop and help, and I am sure the paramedics are already coming.”

But, three black teenagers, while traveling down the road, saw him and were moved with pity. They stopped their car and called an ambulance. Then they followed the ambulance in their own car, brought him to the local hospital, and helped the hospital identify the man. The next day they returned to meet with the man’s wife, offering her food and a place to stay until he was well enough to return home.

Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man on the side of the road?


In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shocked his disciples by saying that a Samaritan was a lawyer’s neighbor–that a Samaritan, showing mercy, had a greater heart and a greater faith than a priest and a Levite.

Samaritans were reviled,  discarded members of 1st Century society–Samaritans, who were thought to be unclean, unbelievers–who had a long history of fighting with the Jews and all that they stood for. Samaritans, Jesus says, are your neighbors.

Jesus calls us to shock ourselves and wonder–who could I never imagine as my neighbor?

What would you think, if you were stranded on the side of the road and three black teenagers stopped to help you?

Does this story sound as preposterous to you as it sounded to Jesus’ followers when he said ‘Samaritan’?


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