For many of us, the Parable of the Samaritan has lost much of its original punch, having grown old and bland through familiarity and distance. So, during the coming weeks, I will be offering three different, unconventional retellings of the Parable of the Good Samaritan in hopes of reinvigorating our imaginations and reclaiming the story’s unsettling example of radical generosity.
The old preacher had been around long enough to know a fraud when he saw one. And he had grown tired of listening to this one regaling audiences in the shade of a pecan grove with fanciful tales of God that lacked any proper exegesis and rational hermeneutical lens. So, he carefully picked his question and planned his attack like a biblical chessmaster.
“Teacher, I’m confused” he called out, his pleasant drawl lazily floating on the ripples of the humid, Georgia heat. “Christians can’t seem to agree on just about anything. Sometimes it seems like they are worshiping completely different gods, to say nothing of the pagans and heathens who worship false gods. So, with all these gods running around in our heads, how do we know which god is the true God?”
The teacher sipped at his sweating glass of iced sweet tea. “Well, what does it say in the Bible? What’s your take?”
The old preacher, pleased to have the stage and perhaps set some erring minds in the audience straight, cleared his throat. “‘Well, God is good, just, loving and hates evil.'”
“Exactly, my friend,” the teacher replied. “Worship this God and you will live.”
But the man wanted to prove a point, that the teacher wasn’t worshiping this God at all. “But everybody — people of all faiths — says this is the God they serve, but clearly they can’t all be right, can they? There is only one true God, as the Scriptures says, not many.”
In reply, the teacher told another story.
“A man was going over to Atlanta from Birmingham, when he found himself in a deserted rest area on I-20. As he was getting out of his car to stretch his legs, a bunch of robbers approached him and pistol-whipped him. They left him in his underwear, bloodied, bruised and unable to move. They left him for dead, stripped of his money, credit cards and jewelry.
A little while later, another traveler stopped at the rest area and heard some rather painful moaning coming from the nearby bushes. He was shocked at the state of the beaten man, eyes swollen, blood-matted hair and the incoherent groaning in pain. He looked down in pity.
“Don’t worry,” he said to the beaten man. “You might be in excruciating pain now, but you won’t be once you get to heaven, which from the looks of your general state, won’t be too long from now. Rejoice in your suffering and count it a blessing! Soon you will be in paradise!”
On that happy note, he left, hoping the man’s suffering would purify him and joyful that another person would die on earth but live forever in heaven.
A third person arrived at the rest area. He had darker skin than the others and spoke with in heavily accented English. He too heard the moans of the beaten man.
When he saw the state of the wounded, he immediately gathered the man’s body into his arms and laid it in his back seat. After compressing the wounds, he sped to the nearby hospital where the nurse admitted the man but informed the kind traveler that without insurance they would stabilize him and send him home. The traveler pulled out a credit card and said to give the man the best care available. I’ll come back and pay anything my credit limit won’t cover.”
Which of these three do you think is the one, true God, the one who condemned and continued to torture him with hellish assaults; the one who told him to look to the world beyond; or the one who cared for him?”
The preacher replied, “The one who had unconditional mercy on him.”
“Go and serve this God, wherever you may find this God,” Jesus said.