A reflection on the Good Samaritan in these days of the DAPL

The good samaritan is a popular story, and one that we have used for centuries to promote “the golden rule.”  We want people to treat others well, and Jesus’s parable about the good samaritan does the trick.


The thing is, Jesus didn’t tell it to teach us how to treat each other.  He told the story to help a lawyer see that he was not as good as he thought.  We need to hear it today.

We are called to love our neighbor, but we might ask, “sure, but who is my neighbor?”  This was the question that prompted the story.  We are told in Luke chapter 10 that a lawyer stood up to question Jesus and ultimately to “justify himself.”  This means that the lawyer wanted to show that he was in the right.

I think a lot of us these days are consumed by the need to show that we are in the right.

I am convinced that if Jesus was here right now in Bismarck and he got the exact same question he would answer like this:

A man got in a wreck and was bleeding from a serious head wound in the bad part of town.  Bill O’Reilly happened by and he thought of him, but knew he didn’t have time, so he hurried along.  

Franklin Graham came by next and he prayed for the man and even made a mental note to use this incident next time he talked about the decaying society we live in.  

Next came a van load of jobless liberals on their way to protest the pipeline in North Dakota.  They stopped and drove the man to the hospital, finding that the man was not yet enrolled in the affordable care act, they took up a collection and left all their money with the hospital and offered to come back on their way home to see how he was and pay more if needed.  

Which of these was a neighbor to the man?  

Go and do likewise.

I will give you another one in case it helps.  Because audience is key, I’m changing it up.

A man got into a car crash in a bad neighborhood and had a serious head wound.  

Rachel Maddow was on her way by, she noticed and felt truly sorry for the predicament this man was in, but just didn’t have time.  

Jesse Jackson came by next, but he was in a hurry, and so he prayed for the man and made a note to point this out next time he was talking about systemic injustice.  

Next came a truck with a confederate flag on the back window, and a bumper sicker that said “they can have my guns when they pry them out of my cold dead fingers.” He picked the man up, drove him to the hospital and made sure everything was paid for, offering to come back in a week and check in and cover any other expenses.  

Which of these was a neighbor to the man?

Go and do likewise.   

This story is crafted by Jesus in order to shake us into the awareness that we cannot prove we are right.  We cannot argue our case before his throne!

We are all guilty of failing to love our neighbor.  Whether you are a “jobless liberal” who is protesting, or a member of the alt-right who had to sit in traffic a little longer today, you have struggled to  love the other side well.

None of us can justify ourselves.  Step one, come to Jesus and realize you have failed to love well.

Second, ask him to help you love.  Stop trying to make your case.  Stop trying to prove you are right.  Instead, say “Jesus, what does the world look like to the other side?  How can I best show them love?”

Jesus loved you when you were unlovable.

Jesus (and Jesus alone) makes you lovable.