By Elysia McColley
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
If you are familiar with Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, you may recognize that the above question was posed by an expert in the law just before Jesus told the parable. The parable was meant to answer the expert’s next question: who is my neighbor?
I won’t recount the parable of the Good Samaritan here, but for reference, it is found in Luke 10:25-37. My last post showed that Samaritanism was not just a different ethnicity but actually a different religion, complete with its own scriptures, laws, traditions, and prophets. If we want to understand how Jesus might relate to Muslims if He was alive today, our best reference point is how He related to Samaritans.
Let’s consider first the road to Jericho, which the man who was attacked was traveling. This road was dangerous, and travelers were frequently waylaid by robbers and bandits. That someone was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on this road probably did not surprise any of Jesus’ listeners.
Let’s consider next that the priest and Levite, who saw the man and passed by on the other side, were doing exactly what they believed the Law proscribed. If the man was dead and they got too close to him, they would become ritually unclean and unable to fulfill their religious duties. That they crossed to the other side of the road probably did not surprise anyone listening.
But of course the loathsome Samaritan would be able to touch the dead body without concern for his own righteousness in the sight of God! No, not so much. Samaritans also had laws about uncleanness, which this man was probably violating. What mattered here was not his own righteousness that he could attain through his own works but rather his love for God demonstrated in his love for his neighbor. This is what would have surprised those listening to Jesus.
The Good Samaritan
First, let’s consider that the Samaritan stopped to help the wounded man. The same robbers who had beaten him up were probably still there, waiting for the next person to pass by. He put himself in imminent danger in order to help someone.
Second, let’s consider that the Samaritan poured oil and wine on the wounded man and bandaged his wounds. The oil and wine may have been his lunch. I imagine that the bandages were strips that he tore from his own clothes.
Third, when he put the wounded man on his own donkey, he would have had to walk. The road to Jericho was dangerous, and the goal was to get down it as quickly as possible. Riding a donkey was safer than walking, not to mention much easier on the feet. But the Samaritan’s concern was not for his own comfort or safety. It was for the well-being of a complete stranger who had been left for dead.
Fourthly, when the Samaritan took the man to the inn, he paid someone to care for him with the promise to reimburse any expenses incurred. He was willing to let the innkeeper take advantage of him, as long as the wounded man had what he needed to recover.
Finally, let’s consider that the wounded man in the story was probably a Jew, not a Samaritan. He had probably grown up with a deep hatred for Samaritans and may have even been spiteful that a Samaritan had saved his life. He probably had no intention of ever paying back the Samaritan for the kindness shown; in fact, he may have wished that he had died instead. But none of those things is the point. The point is that the Samaritan demonstrated the love that God has for us, the same love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.
See, the Samaritan spared absolutely no expense in caring for someone who would never, ever repay him. When is the last time you spared no expense for someone? Do you even have someone in your life that you would spare no expense on? I do. I see that person every time I look in the mirror. But Jesus said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. The Samaritan succeeded where I fail every single day.
Imagine Jesus telling that story about a Muslim rather than a Samaritan. What if Jesus not only told you that Muslims were your neighbors, but then demonstrated the love that you are to show by telling a story about a Muslim’s love for the one that you despise? Imagine that, like the priest and Levite, you have rejected someone because you believe that God told you to. Maybe the person that you rejected is a Muslim. But the Muslim loves that person, and Jesus commends the Muslim.
The way that you may be feeling right now is probably not unlike how Jesus’ original listeners felt when they heard the parable.
Jesus loves Muslims. And He loves when we love our neighbors.