All of my neighbours would probably tell you that I am a good neighbour―except for one.
When I shovel snow from my driveway the morning after a snowfall, I always shovel snow from my neighbour-to-the-right’s driveway too. That neighbour is a single Black mother with a teenage daughter and she’s my mother’s friend. She is easy to help. And whenever I see women shoveling snow from their driveways, I usually rush to the women and convince them to stop, so I would finish it for them. They are also easy to help.
But I won’t do that for my neighbours-to-the-left. I do not speak to them. I do not look at them. And I do not shovel snow from their driveway anymore. Because for whatever reason, they don’t seem to like me and my family. They are not easy to help.
They’ve been rude to us ever since they moved in. But a couple of years ago, they reported my family and I to our local government because we briefly failed to maintain a city by-law. We could have been fined over 300 dollars for that. And that infuriated me. I wondered why they didn’t ring doorbell to talk to me about it first. I would have immediately corrected our mistake. But they didn’t like us. So from that day on, I stopped trying to be a good neighbour to them. I stopped trying to be a Good Samaritan.
The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable wasn’t a Good Samaritan because he helped someone in need. He wasn’t a Good Samaritan because he helped a stranger. No, what made him a Good Samaritan is that he helped someone that wasn’t easy to help. He loved his enemy.
Jesus shared the parable of the Good Samaritan in response to a Lawyer’s attempt to limit his responsibility to love all of his neighbours as himself. Jesus started the parable by explaining that a Jewish man was attacked and robbed as he traveled from Jerusalem to Jericho. The robbers took all of his belongings and they almost took his life too. They nearly beat him to death.
A priest was travelling on the same road that day, but when he saw the man lying on the floor, he ignored him and crossed the other side of the road. Later that day, a Levite traveled on the same road too, and when he saw the man dying on the floor, he also looked the other way. He didn’t help the man either. Then finally, a Samaritan journeyed on that same road. But when he saw the man on the ground, he had compassion on him. He covered his wounds with wine, oil, and cloths. Then he placed the man on a donkey and walked them to an inn, where he gave the innkeeper money and asked him to take care of the dying man until he returned.
Then Jesus asked the lawyer that between the priest, Levite, and Samaritan, which of the three proved to be a neighbour to the dying man? The lawyer admitted that the one who showed mercy, the Samaritan, was the neighbour to the dying man. Then Jesus instructed the lawyer to go and do likewise.
Like many Jews at the time, the Jewish lawyer wanted to consider only Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism his neighbours. He wanted to love the people that were easy to love. He wanted to help only the people that were easy to help. But the parable of the Good Samaritan suggested that every single person the lawyer encounters, including people he dislikes, are his neighbours too.
The Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and that is why Jesus made a Samaritan the hero of the story. The dying man was a Jew. The priest was a Jew. The Levite was a Jew. But the Samaritan is the one who loved and helped the dying man, his enemy.
And that is what a Good Samaritan is. A Good Samaritan loves and helps anyone in need, including their enemies. A Good Samaritan doesn’t withhold their money and resources from an enemy in need. A Good Samaritan doesn’t withhold kindness from a neighbour because the neighbour is unkind to them. A Good Samaritan loves those who hate them, just as Christ loves sinners.
We Christians were once enemies of God, but “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” Jesus is our Good Samaritan. At the right time, while we helpless and dying, Christ helped us. He saw us dying and he had compassion and mercy on us. By his wounds we are healed. Jesus anoints our head with oil; our cup overflows. He carried our sins on his shoulders from Jericho to Jerusalem and he saved us from death. Jesus is our Good Samaritan. He loved us while we were still his enemies. We should go and do likewise.
1 Peter 3:9 says: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
We all know people that are hard to love. They are our neighbours, church-members, co-workers, relatives, and people we dislike on social media. If we’re striving to not repay evil for evil, that’s good. But God commands us to take an extra step. We shouldn’t repay evil for evil, instead, we should be kind to those who are evil to us. We shouldn’t curse those who curse us, instead, we should bless those who curse us. We should love those who hate us. We should love the people that are not easy to love. We should help the people that are not easy to help. We should be like the Good Samaritan.
I’ve told you about the parable, but God is challenging me to live out the parable. My neighours-to-the-left give me the opportunity to be the Good Samaritan. God is giving me the conviction.