A Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion.

“The man who rescued me was a Samaritan, but I’m a Jew.   Why did he even bother to help me?”

You can imagine the victim in this parable asking a question like this. Acrimony between Jews and Samaritans had existed for centuries, so these two would have considered each other sworn enemies.   The hatred was so intense that both Jewish and Samaritan leaders had told their people that it was sinful to talk to or have any contact with the other.   The worst Jewish insult would have been to call someone a Samaritan.

It must have shocked Jesus’ audience that he made a Samaritan the hero of his story.   How could a Samaritan be so kind and compassionate?

Jesus’ parable forced his hearers to put a face and a heart on a member of a despised group.   That’s always the first step in undoing prejudice and bias: to view people not as “categories” or “labels” but as individuals created in the image and likeness of God.   When we do this, we often discover that our assumptions about a person are way off base.

The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable saw the Jewish man on the side of the road not as his enemy but as his neighbor.   That’s how God wants us to see everyone we encounter as well.   It’s a tall order, and we can’t do it on our own. We need the grace of the Holy Spirit to help us confront our prejudices, fears, and assumptions.   We need him to open our eyes so that we can see everyone as our brother or sister, no matter how different they are from us.

Jesus ended this parable by telling the scribe who prompted it, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).   The answer to overcoming our divisions is not just in seeing people differently; it’s in treating them differently.   Take that as a challenge today.   Find one situation in which you can “go and do likewise” toward someone different from you—engage them in conversation, offer to help them, make it a point to think about their own hopes and dreams.   Opportunities abound.   All we need is a little courage to try.

Word Among Us