Love Thy Neighbor

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

— Matthew 22:39

Let a man once find another who has fallen among thieves; let him be a neighbor to him, pouring oil and wine into his wounds, and binding them, and setting him on his own beast, and paying for him at the inn; let him do all this merely from a sense of duty; let him abate no jot of his Jewish superiority; let him condescend to the very baseness of his own lowest nature; yet such will be the virtue of obeying an eternal truth even to his poor measure, of putting in actuality what he has not even seen in theory, of doing the truth even without believing it, that even if the truth does not after the deed give the faintest glimmer as truth in the man, he will yet be ages nearer the truth than before, for he will go on his way loving that Samaritan neighbor a little more than his Jewish dignity will justify. How much more if he be a man who would love his neighbor if he could, will the higher condition unsought have been found in the action! For man is a whole; and so soon as he unites himself by obedient action, the truth that is in him makes itself known to him. For his action is his response to his maker’s design, his individual part in the creation of himself, his yielding to the All in all. When will once begins to aspire, it will soon find that action must precede feeling, that the man may know the foundation itself of feeling.

With those who recognize no authority as the ground for tentative action, a doubt, a suspicion of truth ought to be ground enough for putting it to the test.

Commentary

The Good Samaritan, 2017
by Jess Lederman

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of those oft-told tales which we sometimes need to come to as though for the first time. It can be easy to say, if I saw a man, badly hurt, lying by the side of the road, of course I'd stop to help!

But would I? Have I counted the cost?

Inspired by this same question, and in recognition that 2017 is the 2,000th anniversary of the actual Good Samaritan Incident which formed the basis for Jesus' parable, the New Testament Channel recently presented an interesting documentary. They had set up hidden cameras along the road that leads from Jerusalem to Jericho (the very same that Jesus refers to, although it's been widened considerably in recent years) and filmed for several months. It is still quite a dangerous stretch of highway, and eventually their cameras caught an assault by brigands on an innocent traveler, whom they beat mercilessly and left for dead. As happened two millennia ago, one person after another who passed by simply avoided the fallen figure and kept on his way.

Eventually, however, a trio came by and, seeing the man, stopped to discuss what ought to be done. It's clear from their conversation that these were professionals who were returning to work from a business lunch. One of them--we'll call him John--said he thought they ought to help the poor fellow. But the other two thought that was a terrible idea. What follows is based on a transcript of the audio captured at the scene.

"Look," said John's male co-worker, "we shouldn't even be stopping here, there are robbers all along this stretch of highway, and for all we know, they could be lying in wait."

"Furthermore," said John's female co-worker, "what can we do? Do you know first aid?" John is seen shaking his head 'no.' "So then just call 911 and let the authorities take care of this. Not to mention we're already behind schedule with our project, and there's going to be another round of layoffs any day now. We need to get right back to work."

"I understand everything you're saying," said John, "and it all makes sense. But the authorities aren't usually very responsive around here. You guys go on back to the office, I'll take care of this guy. And when I get there, I'll stay late and make up for my end of the work."

John's co-workers are seen walking away (as shown in the still from the video, above). He takes the bottle of Dasani that he's been drinking and uses a few drops to wash the man's face, then props the man's head up and tries to get some of the water into his mouth. It's not easy. A sound is heard in the background, and John looks around nervously, but evidently sees nothing and returns his attention to the fallen man.

After a few minutes, John is seen taking out his cell phone; he calls his wife and briefly explains what has happened. Fortunately, he was using the speakerphone setting so that he could continue to attend to the man while he talked.

"I don't understand," his wife is heard to say. "You don't know the first thing about first aid, you're a sitting duck on that dangerous highway, and you're risking getting fired from your job. What will we do if something happens to you? Your wife and kids ought to be your first priority, John, not some stranger!"

"Yeah, I get all that," John says. "I'm sorry, darling, but I've got to do this. I'll be home as soon as I can."

He puts the cell phone in his back pocket, takes out a pack of cigarettes, and is heard saying, "I guess I picked a lousy day to try and stop smoking." John lights up, takes four or five puffs, then throws it away. He then hoists the fallen man onto his back; his knees buckle for a moment, but gradually he straightens up and begins to trudge down the road, eventually disappearing from view.

I'm hoping the New Testament Channel will reveal what happened next in a subsequent installment; but for now, that's all I know.

***

Okay, so, maybe it's not really the 2,000th anniversary of the Good Samaritan Incident. But I imagine that the Samaritan in Jesus' story--as imaginary as he might have been--took all these risks and more. Did you clothe me when I was naked, feed me when I was hungry--did you stop and help me when I lay wounded by the side of the road? I wonder sometimes, when I'm put to the test, am I prepared to walk away from everything and everyone and do what He would have me do? I pray that I'll have the faith to follow Him, however hard it may be.