Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
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?
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
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