The heart of a neighbour - 22 March 2022

By Xanthe Hancox

To the Jews in Jesus’ day, the idea of a “good Samaritan” was an oxymoron. The two words just didn’t go together. It would be along the line of calling someone an honest thief.

In Jesus’ parable, two religious leaders pass by and pay no attention to the man who lies beaten on the road. The audience would then expect the third person in the story to be the hero and resolve the conflict. Surely this would be a highly respected Pharisee, who worked twice as hard as any others to serve God. But to the surprise of his listeners, Jesus brings in a Samaritan, who becomes the neighbour.

The text from the Old Testament that speaks about neighbours and would have been well-known to Jesus’s audience, says: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) When Jews talked about neighbours, they meant fellow Israelites. The Samaritans were descended from foreigners who came to live in northern Israel and mixed their religions with the worship of God after Israel was exiled. (2 Kings 17:24-41) They despised the Jews, and the Jews despised them as unclean. A Jew would rather be left for dead than helped by such a person.

The point is this: rather than asking “Who is my neighbour?” we need to ask, “Am I a neighbour to people around me who need help?” When we act like a neighbour to others, they become our neighbours.

Prayer: Lord, your love knows no bounds. Guide my attitudes so that I can show love as you do. Amen