Who is your Samaritan? Not literally, of course, since most of us probably don’t really know anyone from Samaria, but that person who you think would be the last person in the world to help you if they found you beaten and bloody in a ditch? Who is the person who — whether because of nationality or ethnicity or whatever — would walk right by you without batting an eye?
I’m guessing that most of you (hopefully!) would not name your priest or clergyperson, but what about someone from another religion (or even no religion at all) who, for one reason or another, doesn’t particularly care for people who go to your church? Would it be a politician, someone who needs to be seen with only the “right” people if they want to be reelected? What if a banker walked by, would he or she be concerned that it might cost money to help you? Would a lawyer stop to help if it looked like you couldn’t afford to pay their fee?
Now let’s reverse the question. Who would you “pass by on the opposite side?” Would it be someone from a country associated with terrorist activity? Someone whose last name or national identity makes you uncomfortable? Would you cross the street to avoid someone whose sexual orientation was different from your own? Or someone whose skin was a different color? Would level of education or economic status determine which side of the street you would choose to walk on? Would it depend on just how badly they were hurt and how much effort it would take if you let yourself get involved?
“A man fell victim to robbers … But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.” “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart … being … strength … and … mind … and your neighbor as yourself.”
What does this kind of love look like in our world today? Your answer to this last question may depend on how you answered the first two. Look around you — at work, in your community, in your neighborhood. Who is your neighbor? Who is your Samaritan?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.