“For the entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14 Mounce).
We can define what it means to “…love your neighbor as yourself'” by taking the time to examine a Biblical parable that addresses that question. In Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan, a traveler on the way from the city of Jerusalem to the town of Jericho “…fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead'” (Luke 10:30).
That unfortunate series of events led to another unfortunate series of events…
“Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side” (Luke 10:31-32).
In Jesus’ day, a priest served as the minister who represented the people before God and offered the sacrifices necessary to atone for their sins. The “Levites” were the descendants of Levi, one of the original leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. One of the Levites’ primary responsibilities involved serving as assistants to the priests of Old Testament Israel.
Unfortunately, these spiritual leaders saw the need that existed before them but did nothing in response. Fortunately for the injured traveler in Jesus’ parable, that was about to change…
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you'” (Luke 10:33-35).
When Israel was conquered by the nation of Assyria around 722 B.C, the Assyrians forcibly relocated the citizens of that area except for a few of the very poorest inhabitants. Over time, those who had remained in the region of Samaria intermarried with others from that area and lost the ability to document their Jewish heritage. That led many of the people of Jesus’ day to disassociate themselves from the Samaritans. Some even chose to avoid traveling through that area entirely just to evade them.
We’ll see how these cultural realities impacted the wounded traveler and the Good Samaritan in this parable next.