Who is My Neighbor

The Parable of the Good Samaritan - Biblical text: Luke 10: 25-37

Jesus narrated this parable as an answer to a question asked by an expert in the law. Here the question was, “Who is my neighbour?” Although in this discussion both Jesus and the expert in the law accepted that to inherit eternal life it was necessary to love God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind, neither of them was interested in having a dialogue on “who is my God”. Instead, the expert in the law was interested to know who his neighbour was.

Jesus told this story not as a fairytale but took the material from real-life situations of his time. During this time it was dangerous to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho. This road was frequented by looters and robbers. It is very clear that to compile this story Jesus chose the personalities very carefully. The characters (the man who was attacked by the robbers, a Samaritan, a priest and a Levite) were active, influential and at times problematic figures of that time.

When the Samaritan decided to help the fallen man he had to cross his ethnic and religious boundaries. On the other hand in order to stand on his feet once again, the fallen man had to rely on a person who was not of his own group but from a hated group. He had to acknowledge the goodness and the kindness of the Samaritan. Here without any doubt, the fallen man was instigated to compare and contrast the unwillingness of two people from his own group with the willingness of the Samaritan to help him when he needed support.

This made me realise the necessity of crossing one’s own ethnic and/or religious boundaries to serve humanity. According to my understanding, this is one of the main messages that Jesus wanted to underline by narrating the story of the Good Samaritan.

In our present context, this is something that we urgently need to promote if we are to enjoy lasting peace in Sri Lanka. The only effective way to reduce the prejudices of the other group is to get into the other group to help them, and we do this by crossing the narrow ethnoreligious identities of my own group. This is not easy because whenever anybody tries to do this s/he could be suspected by both groups.

But this is the cost of our discipleship. This is where we meet the cross. Jesus crossed his narrow ethnoreligious boundaries to redeem and transform the world. When Jesus crossed his ethno-religious boundaries his leaders and some of his people found it difficult to understand him. On the other hand, the Roman imperial government also did not recognise what he was doing. Therefore the Jewish leaders and some of his people were able to use the Roman imperial power to crucify him.

If we ask God to use us to transform our world we cannot avoid this cross. But that’s where we find redemption and liberation. This model is not something of the past. This is what Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa did to transform South Africa into a country where blacks and whites have equal rights. Another example of this model is Martin Luther King of the United States of America. Where Asia is concerned I believe we could draw better inspiration from the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi of India. His struggle was very much related to ethnoreligious identities and drew inspiration from religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.

Are we ready to do this?

Recommendation (for action)

1. Identify 3 passages where Jesus crossed his own boundaries, and have a discussion to understand the reasons for him doing so.

2. Identify 3 opportunities where we could cross our narrow ethnoreligious boundaries to serve humanity.

3. Select one of those opportunities and work out a programme with another group – Example: To have a programme with another ethnoreligious group.

4. Share the responsibilities to carry out that programme with deadlines.