A family of disheveled, unkempt individuals was stranded by the side of a major road on a Sunday morning. They were in obvious distress. The mother was sitting on a ruined suitcase, hair uncombed, clothes in disarray, with a glazed look to her eyes, holding a smelly, poorly dressed, crying baby. The father was unshaved, dressed in filthy cloths, a look of despair on his face as he tried to corral two other youngsters. Beside them was a rundown old car that had obviously just given up.
Down the road came a car driven by the local bishop; he was on his way to church. And though the father of the family waved frantically, the bishop could not hold up his parishioners, so he acted as though he didn’t see them.
Soon another car, and again the father waved furiously. But the car was driven by the president of the Young Life Club, and he was late for a statewide meeting of Young Life presidents in a nearby city. He, too, acted as though he did not see them and kept his eyes straight on the road ahead of him.
The next car that came by was driven by an outspoken local atheist, who had never been to church in his life. When he saw the family’s distress, he took them to a local motel, where he paid for a week’s lodging while the father found work. He also paid for the father to rent a car so he could look for work and gave the mother cash for food and new clothes.
The original parable can be found in Luke 10:25 – 37. Here is how this parable was set up. A religious expert asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Christ (knowing that he was an expert) basically said “well…what do you think needs to be done?” The man responded with Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself”. That answer was correct. The expert then asked “and who is my neighbor?”… You see this “expert” had spent a life time in creating boundaries around who his neighbor was. While he was trying to trap Christ …Christ had set him up.
This parable has multiple layers, because not only does it demonstrate that our “neighbor” is anyone, thus breaking the conventional thought of what a “neighbor” is, but it also exposes a hateful heart towards others. Look at the circa 2010 parable above. Were you offended that it was a God hating atheist who finally stopped to help the family? Are you thinking that “surely I, or a member of my church would have stopped”? The fact that there is discontent and issue with an atheist stopping to help others demonstrates the true nature of our hearts. Then the question becomes do you truly love your neighbor as yourself? Even when the neighbor is an atheist? This, ultimately, was the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The circa 2010 parable was based on a similar story found in “How to Read the Bible for all Its Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.