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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Rewiring the Parables | ‘Who is my Neighbour?’

Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.’

Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

Luke 10:30–33, 36  

 


 

Some years ago, I faced the task of preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan. How could I find a fresh angle on such a well-known story? I found my answer in the storyline.

The Jews hated the Samaritans with a passion. The mere concept of a ‘good Samaritan’ was an oxymoron. In telling the story, Jesus forced his audience to confront their preconceptions and prejudices.

Could I ‘rewire’ this parable into a 21st-Century setting? Could I develop a narrative that would connect with people who might struggle to place Jerusalem and Jericho on a map, and wouldn’t know a Levite or Samaritan if they tripped over them?

The first thing I needed was a modern-day equivalent of a good Samaritan.

And so, I found myself telling the story of the ‘Compassionate Millwall Fan.’ I’ll leave you to imagine how the narrative unfolds.

But I took care to ensure that the underlying messaging, the point and purpose of the parable, stayed the same.

Jesus takes the cosy concept of neighbourliness – people we know, people we like, people nearby, people like us – and blows it apart.

Neighbourliness, he says, is not just about physical proximity; it’s an attitude of mind, a relationship with humanity as a whole.

We live in a world of 24-hour rolling news and worldwide connectivity. Never have we known our ‘global neighbourhood’ better. Do we allow that knowledge to confront our racial, social, and political preconceptions and prejudices or simply to confirm them?

Coming closer to home, in our local neighbourhood our friendship circles tend to be formed of people who are like us and whom we like. It’s human nature to construct such comfort zones, buffers to the world.

But our everyday frontlines, whatever and wherever they may be, will often take us outside those comfort zones and place us alongside people who are not like us. Even people who we do not particularly like. People who might not particularly like us.

Again, we may need to confront our preconceptions and prejudices. To look beyond ‘likeness’ and ‘likeability’. To see instead, through Jesus’ eyes, the neighbour he calls us to love.

The good Samaritan saw a person in need, and he met that need practically, at some personal cost and inconvenience. He and the Compassionate Millwall Fan are good role models. How might we imitate their example this week?

___

Mike Elms
A lifelong adman, Mike is now Chair of Trustees at CPO (Christian Publishing & Outreach). You can read the ‘Compassionate Millwall Fan’ at www.parablesrewired.com

Join the conversation in the comments section below.

John Stott London Lecture 2022

Come to the 2022 John Stott London Lecture, on 10 November, to hear more on how we might love our neighbour, even when we disagree with them.

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Comments

  1. There is a more direct comparison to the Good Samaritan then a Milwall fan which I find apt. The “problem” with the Samaritan was he went up the wrong mountain to worship………but God looks at the heart.
    Christians over the years have had a habit of only associating with those who worship in the same place….we are obsessed with bring people up the same mountain we go to worship.
    I recount this parable as a story about a parish priest, the area dean and a visiting Bishop, who are all undone by the local Muslim taxi driver.

    By Nigel Sabell  -  31 Oct 2022
  2. I’ve been challenged just today to re-read that story from the point of view of the victim, the man beaten up. Would I want this person to be my neighbour?
    Being a ‘Good Samaritan’ has the potential to paint us in a good light, so we like the idea. Allowing an ‘enemy’ to help me is more difficult.

    By David Wood  -  31 Oct 2022
  3. I don’t disagree with anything you say, but merely add a comment which I find interesting:
    Yes indeed Jesus’s audience would have had to see past their prejudices to acknowledge the possibility of being called to love a Samaritan. However I note that there were two characters in the story who were not neighbours to the attacked man, namely the priest and the Levite. “Love thy neighbour” would not require him to love those two. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that our neighbours are those who are kind to us.
    Best wishes, Ian.

    By Ian Troughton  -  31 Oct 2022
  4. The Milwall fan reminds me of a night in 1982 when I was driving my wife’s Fiat 500 down the M6. We were moving home and this car was the last item to be relocated. It had a slipping clutch. and going slower and slower I was eventually shunted off the motorway by a lorry. It didn’t stop, and missing concrete pillars by just a few feet I was left stranded and shocked at the top of the bank. As I got out of the car I saw a coach reversing back up the hard shoulder. Two or three people got out – they took me and the contents of the car onto the coach. For a while they tried to catch up with the lorry but soon gave up. They gave me coffee and generally looked after me. They dropped me off at a hotel near Watford where I could phone my wife (pre mobile phones) and she could collect me. The people on the coach were the Milwall football team returning home from an away game. To my shame and sadness, whilst I always meant to write to them and say how grateful I was, I never quite got round to it. It seems the players as well as the supporters don’t cross on the other side.

    By Adrian Roy BEVAN  -  4 Nov 2022

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