The Parable of the Good Samaritan is deeply beloved by Christians. I don’t know why for it is as challenging a teaching as anything Jesus teaches. In essence, I think it is this:
The scribe wants to know the limits of his love and Jesus expands the limits of love to anyone we happen to bump into, even if it cuts into the grain of our religious fabric.
1. Missional Jesus’ story subverts cliques and boundary marker love. We cannot reduce love to those we like.
2. Missional Jesus knew that the priest (and probably Levite) could justify their behavior by recourse to the Torah: the priest was not to defile himself with corpse impurity unless it was nearest of kin.
3. Missional Jesus knows the law’s limits but not love’s limits. The law, unless it flows from the law to love your neighbor as yourself (Jesus Creed), is misunderstood. Once it is, the law sometimes gives way to loving behaviors outside those boundaries.
4. Missional followers of Jesus are noted by such loving behaviors.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”