This is a great story to show how gray—not black and white—this world truly is. Those of us who have been raised on the story of the Good Samaritan have effectively replaced Samaritan with saint. But the Samaritan wasn’t a saint to the Jews. The Jews had been raised to believe the Samaritans were inferior because they were Jews that had intermarried with non-Jews, so were not pure of blood. This would make them unclean, and likewise it wasn’t a stretch to consider them shady in character as well. This makes the story all the more perplexing when the shady, unclean one gave so much of himself to aid the one he knew hated him. Granted, this was a parable, but the imagery invoked is hard to reconcile.
A friend of mine once told me of a sermon she had heard that challenged hearers to love the unlovable – the homeless, addicted, and mentally ill. But she had a soft spot for those folks. To imagine loving them was not hard for her at all. So she thought about it and concluded that there would, indeed, be someone she would have a hard time loving. Earlier in the week she had received a phone call from a person who obviously was a scammer trying to steal access to her computer and its contents. She realized she had a really hard time loving that person. The traditionally unloved were not hard for her, but telephone scammers were. It kind of makes me wonder – who do I have a hard time loving? If I were to find out that a telephone scammer gave a portion of their stolen funds to charity, would it change my disdain for them? A gray world, indeed.
Narrative Lectionary Text for This Sunday
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, 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 while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”