Why Did Jesus Choose a Samaritan?

Luke 10 contains Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. The basic message is that we are to love each person that crosses our path.

The parable Jesus told contains an additional message that we might easily rush by.

In the previous chapter (Luke 9) a Samaritan village refused to provide food and shelter for Jesus because he was traveling to Jerusalem. That sounds like prejudice at its finest. Jesus’ disciples then sought to return the favour as they asked if they could call down fire from heaven upon the village. Jesus rebuked them and walked on to another village.

good samaritan 01A little later when asked to answer the question “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus tells a story that contrasts the religious leaders of the day and a foreigner. If Jesus simply wanted to create a contrast for his story, he could have told the parable of the Good Undertaker, or the Good Tax Collector. He could have used any number of unclean or unwelcome characters from Jewish society. Instead, Jesus made his hero a Samaritan.

In choosing a Samaritan as his hero Jesus provided a subversive commentary on Jewish societal attitudes of the day. So if you think Jesus wouldn’t have anything to say about race relations in the US (or any other country) today, you’re wrong.

A significant message from this parable is that we are to love our neighbours that have black or white skin. We are to love those who speak English poorly, or not at all. Of course, none of us are racists. But there are some groups of people we don’t like very much.

  • The (white) suburbs don’t like when the (black) city starts spreading outward.
  • We complain aobut all the Indians in the call centers who we can’t understand.
  • We don’t like the (sometimes illegal) immigrants taking “our jobs”.
  • We don’t like the Asians we see driving around town in their nice cars. (Because they all drive Mercedes, right?)
  • We’re uncomfortable driving through neighbourhoods where the store signs are all in another language.

Maybe we don’t want to call down heavenly fire onto these people, but it would be a stretch to say that we love them.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr Day. As a figurehead within the civil rights movement he played a pivotal role in bringing great transformation to this country. In his “I Have A Dream” speech he made the statement,

I have a dream, that one day, my four little children will live in a country where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.

That’s a dream Jesus had for the world. Jesus dreamed of a kingdom defined not by ethnicity, but by character. It’s certainly a sentiment found in this parable. In verse 37 we find that the true neighbour is not identified by race, but as “The one who had mercy upon him.

We need to respect the colour of skin, and the riches of languages and cultures of other people. We also need to look beyond these traits to their heart needs and their character.

In The Parable of The Good Samaritan Jesus makes a subversive statement about race relations. “Samaritans are God’s people too.” It’s a message that retains its relevance in 2014.

MLK: In His Own Words

No one can deny that Marin Luther King Jr was a powerful orator. He has influenced American society as much as anyone in history. I am not as familiar with his teaching as I would like to be. As Martin Luther King Day approaches on January 20 I find it meaningful to remind myself of the battles he (and others) fought and the non-violent philosophy he pursued.

So here is a Meet the Press interview from 1965 in which he discusses the activities of the civil rights movement, beginning with the March from Selma.

There are a lot of notable quotes in this interview. Early on this one caught my attention, “We believe that unmerited suffering is redemptive.”  There’s a lot to think about there.

Was there a quote from this interview that engaged you?

Do You Know Your Community?

Race map USA 2010

The above map purports to show each person identified in the USA through the 2010 census. If you click on the map above you’ll go to the original site that allows you to move around and zoom in on your community.

This isn’t really the typical material promoted on this blog, so let me explain.

I suspect that most churches have little concept of the racial makeup of their community. We often function based upon our impressions as we shop and drive through the neighborhood. Perhaps particular parts of our towns and cities have reputations for having a lot of residents from a distinct culture.

The risk with functioning based upon impressions is that appearances can easily deceive us. Yes, the majority of our neighbourhood may well be black or white, but the apartment complex down the road may have a large Indian population. We may not see many Indian restaurants or businesses because while the live in our neighbourhood, they work and shop elsewhere in the city.

Churches can’t serve our communities effectively, if we don’t know who lives in our communities.

Really knowing our community requires research and asking questions. So I submit the map above as a starting point. Zoom in on your city and see if it matches your impression. Did you find any surprises? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Personally, I found a lot more red dots in my city than I expected. (They do seem to stand out more than the green and orange.)