Jesus told a story that even the most Biblically ignorant people in the world have heard. We call it “The Good Samaritan.” Most of us have never actually been in the shoes of either of these men. Oh, we may have been on the side of the road with a flat tire or a broken fan belt or an overheated radiator, and maybe someone even stopped and helped us, but I doubt we have ever filled every variable of this example.
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Luke 10:30-35.
Understand this: the relationship between Jew and Samaritan was even worse than black and white, and maybe even Jew and Gentile. “On all public occasions, Samaritans took the part hostile to the Jews, while they seized every opportunity of injuring and insulting them…they sold many Jews into slavery…they waylaid and killed pilgrims on their road to Jerusalem. The Jews retaliated by treating the Samaritans with every mark of contempt; by accusing them of falsehood, folly, and irreligion; and…by disowning them as [being] of the same race or religion, and this in the most offensive terms of assumed superiority and self-righteous fanaticism” (Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah).
These two men not only disagreed politically, they disagreed religiously as well. Their people hated one another, mistreated one another; they were violent and malicious in every way possible. Yet here is one who finds himself in need and his “enemy” takes care of him. And not just minimally. The Samaritan left “two denarii” to care for the Jew. A denarius was a day’s wage for a skilled laborer—think carpenter, plumber, or mason in our day, and the wage those men make an hour, then multiply it out for two days’ worth of wages. That is the equivalent of what the Samaritan left for a complete stranger, and an enemy at that.
Now think today of someone who fits that description—a stranger who is a member of an enemy nation, one that is violent, who hates us, and who is also of a different religion. Do I have to spell it out?
So you drive by and see someone on the side of the road who is obviously one of those people by his looks and dress—or maybe at the last rest area you saw him on his prayer rug looking to the east so you know exactly what he is. What are you going to do? If Jesus’ story does not apply here, it applies nowhere.
The posts I have seen by some of my brethren on Facebook appall me. I do not see a kind people who would care even for those we disagree with, as Jesus did when he healed Malchus’s ear, but an angry people who would wish them harm. What are we thinking? “Stop this!” Jesus told Peter when he drew his sword. “Any who take the sword will perish by the sword" Matt 26:52.
Jesus also described the citizens of his spiritual kingdom this way: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:43-48
I never thought that passage would actually mean something to me someday. I don’t have enemies, at least none who might wish me harm, but that possibility is becoming more and more real, and that means that passage is becoming one we may have to use one of these days. Do not become like the unbelievers who ignore the entire Bible by ignoring this one verse in your own life. The same God wrote it all.
In the Roman Empire Christians often gave themselves away because they were kind not only to their own, but also to their pagan neighbors, even those who had been unkind to them. Everyone knew, “Only Christians do that.”
Is that what they would say about you?
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them… Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Rom 12:14-21