Friday, October 30, 2009

The Samaritan's Legacy of Love

When I say "Samaritan," what do you automatically think of? Before I understood Bible history or different people groups in the New Testament, I thought a Samaritan was a good neighbor. I did not realize that Samaritans were frowned upon by the Jews. I did not recognize the negative connotations that were implicitly held by the word "Samaritan." Samaritans were half-breeds. They had a defective devotion to Judaism, and they were connected ancestrally to pagans. Jews believed that in crossing Samaritan land, they would be contaminated. As a child, I did not know this, although I knew the parable of the good Samaritan. In retrospect, I find that Samaritan held a very positive connotation in my mind. I find it fascinating that Jesus' interactions/parables about Samaritans were both positive and didactic for the rest of the Christ-followers. The Samaritan woman at the well and the Samaritan who cared for the beaten, dying man both served in ways that were to be emulated by all.
What I see first is that Jesus did not restrict His examples to Jews. He actually seemed to enjoy using those who were socially and culturally "less than" as a way to presenting the universality of the gospel. This was also a way of showing that true devotion, compassion, and love can be evidenced by all people of every nationality.
I guess that I was mostly struck today when I hit the word Samaritan and realized that I recognize it as a positive term. One imaginary man in a parable influenced forever my idea of what type of person is a Samaritan. "Who was a neighbor?” Jesus asked. The one who was the least like a neighbor to begin with became the truest neighbor possible. Jesus tells the religious scholar, the devout Jew, to go and do the same as the Samaritan.
Jesus turned labels upside-down and inside out. The label of Samaritan holds more tenderness in my heart than the label of Jewish leader or religious scholar. How interesting.
Love: It is the greatest of all. Eagerly desire the gifts of the spirit, but above all desire love. What did this Samaritan have that the others did not have? Love. I want to let love influence everything. Who can give the gift of belovedness to others? Only the beloved can do that. Stigmas and stereotypes externally do not take away my identity as the beloved. The socially lowest of low were able to give love because they were loved infinitely by the creator of the universe. His love does not discriminate. It does not label. It does not diagnose or stereotype or write someone off as untouchable. As His beloved, now I can love. Just like the Samaritan.

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