The Good Samaritan – Who is our Neighbour?

Just Love Oxford held their first event of term on Friday 13th October, launching their term theme: THIS. IS. IT. Miriam Swaffield spoke on Luke chapter 10 . . .

We all knew the story. It’s about being nice to people, right?
At Just Love’s Michaelmas Launch 2017, Miriam Swaffield’s request that we tell each other the story of The Good Samaritan didn’t prove too difficult- it’s a simple, powerful narrative. A man bleeding on a roadside. The ones who should have helped walked away. The one who no-one would have expected to help stopped and gave his time and money and love to the stranger.

It’s easy to get used to a story as ubiquitous as this, to think there’s nothing more we can know about it. Miriam’s talk, however, delved deep into the heart of this passage to remind us of its radical call to action.
It was particularly useful to contextualise the parable, as an answer to the question of a religious expert who, as Miriam put it, wanted to know how little love he could get away with and still be right with God. Strikingly, he had just recited perfectly the two greatest commandments:

‘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 neighbour as yourself.’

Luke 10:27

Knowledge clearly wasn’t the issue here. When Jesus replied that he must not only do this but do it habitually, make it part of the way he lived, the expert was anxious to find out who he could afford to miss out.
And in a beautiful, radical, offensive parable, Jesus replied ‘no-one.’

It’s easy to forget the depth of the social divide which the Samaritan had to cross in order to help the wounded man. The risk of becoming unclean from touching his wounds, the intense animosity from the Jewish people who considered the Samaritans traitors for turning away from God; the road the Samaritan crossed was far more than a physical stretch of ground.

Miriam underlined the huge significance of the love that Jesus speaks of in this passage; a love that does not seek to quantify or exclude but embraces anyone and everyone, even- especially- those who are considered hard to love.
And then the challenge, the verse Just Love is focusing on this term: “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) For the second time in this passage, Miriam noted that Jesus chooses a verb implying continued, habitual action- it’s not a single action but a way of life, a way of life which is radically different to the one we see promoted in a culture that urges us to look out for ourselves.
Miriam was open about the personal challenge of this passage for her, and how it has urged her to do something outrageous, in going to an area completely unexpected, to completely uproot her life and make a move even the estate agent was confused by.

It was helpful, after the talk, to discuss how we might apply this in our lives: who are the broken and wounded in our society? They’re not always lying on the roadside- sometimes they’re in rooms on our corridors, feeling overwhelmed and lost. Sometimes they’re on the other side of the world, working inhuman hours to make the cheap clothing we wear. And where are the roads we need to cross in order to help them? How outrageously can we love our neighbours?

The biggest challenge I took away from thinking differently about the Good Samaritan was the realisation that loving unconditionally, radically, wholeheartedly, is not just something that God does. He gives us the amazing opportunity to be moulded into His likeness, to care about the broken on the roadside with His compassion, to be filled with His Spirit of radical love, and to live this out day by day if we trust Him enough to change us. More than that, this is what he calls us to do.
‘Go and do likewise.’ THIS.IS.IT.