The Good Samaritan
Thoughts on the Royal Law, Luke 10:25-37 and James 2:8
As was often the case, Jesus told an amazing story in answer to a question. In our reading today an expert in the Old Testament Law really wanted recognition and approval for eternal life on the nod. Of the 600 laws that the Pharisees had classified in order of importance, the expert was sure that he had enough of them ticked to ensure a pass!
Imagine the expert’s delight when Jesus commends him for answering correctly ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’. The expert was comfortable with loving God but a crack appeared in his comfort zone when he thought about ‘and love your neighbour as yourself’ v27. He was fine with loving God, but not so sure about others. They may spoil it.
So to justify and protect his pious outlook the expert asked ‘Who is my neighbour?’ I can imagine him thinking, fingers crossed, ‘please let the answer be people like me!’ This is where Jesus shattered the expert’s illusions and expanded his horizon irreversibly. The ensuing story of the Good Samaritan unveils a counter-cultural way of living, the ‘Royal Law’ as James puts it in James 2:8.
The Royal Law, the law of the Kingdom of God, is experienced when the fence surrounding our comfort zone is breached. The victim in Jesus’ story had been abused on three levels. He had been beaten, robbed and ignored by two passers-by. But then the Royal Law was demonstrated by a Samaritan, a member of a racial group who were the enemies of the Jewish people.
The Royal Law overcomes prejudice. The Samaritan, ignoring his own status and that of the victim, crossed his moral, racial and creedal boundaries and offered first aid to a dying man.
It also confronts our moral, racial and creedal hierarchies. In Jesus’ day the Samaritans were the outcasts while the Jewish community held the high ground. You may expect a story from Jesus that shows how a Jew should have compassion for all people. But here is a story where a Samaritan seems to be nearer the Kingdom than a pious but merciless Jew. The Royal Law overcomes prejudice. Perhaps an even more important question for the expert to ask would have been ‘How do I behave as a neighbour?’
Who is my neighbour? The person to whom I can demonstrate God’s love. Not just the person like me, who shares my political views or supports the same team as I do.
Spend some time today praying for your neighbours and look for an opportunity to tell them about Jesus.