Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. (Luke 10:30-33)
The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a message of judgement pronounced upon Israel by way of Jesus’ answer to the lawyer asking about eternal life and who exactly his neighbor was. The priest and Levite notice the “man” who was left for dead and decide to see it no more, taking the effort to cross the street and pass by with their consciences intact, apparently. The Samaritan saw him, had compassion, and did something. you know the rest of the story. The man left for dead is revived because of this compassionate intervention. Jesus asked who proved to be the neighbor and the lawyer correctly opted for #3, the Samaritan, and is then told to go and do likewise (Luke 10:37).
Loving your neighbor has less to do with who’s in or out and what the minimum threshold is but acting like a loving neighbor to whatever needs are present in front of your face. A good category for this is the concept of moral proximity: you’re responsible to act on behalf of the needs that are proximate, in front on you, within your sphere of influence. The Heidelberg Catechism is also helpful in its application of the decalogue (10 Commandments) by asking for the inferred positive responsibility to commands that simply tell us not to do this or that. By simply not killing, one isn’t necessarily valuing life positively as they ought. There’s a corresponding message that reflects God’s heart about the value of human life that needs further reflection to rightly understand the aim of the commandment. Here’s how the Heidelberg handles the question of murder:
Q. 105. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
A. That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonour, hate, wound, or kill my neighbour, by myself or by another: but that I lay aside all desire of revenge: also, that I hurt not myself, nor wilfully expose myself to any danger. Wherefore also the magistrate is armed with the sword, to prevent murder.
Q. 106. But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?
A. In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder.
Q. 107. But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?
A. No: for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.
This gets to the heart of Jesus’ discussion with the lawyer. It also makes manifestly clear the negligence of the priest and Levite. They might not have beaten the man up, but they were complicit with his potential death in their neglect. One simply can walk away from the abortion issue. There are many who rightly see it for what it is but cross the street anyway. Shame on you. You can say it’s too political an issue and inconvenient to handle, just like the priest and Levite thought, or even say that you are preserving an environment of grace by not touching it, just like the priest and Levite sought to maintain their religious purity, but there’s no argument sufficient to not make you the bad guy in the modern parable, upon whom the real shame comes.
Take a look at the aborted fetus. Will you see it and cross the street, or show compassion? What the good Samaritan saw wasn’t pleasant. He could have closed his eyes, consider it an unwanted intrusion into his otherwise pleasant conscience, and rid the picture from his mind by crossing the street and appease himself by saying that it’s not his responsibility. The blood cries out, the pictures are there — will you hear and see? Will you do something?
© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.