Summary: Realize the revolutionary nature of the Good Samaritan story, and turn it into a changed attitude toward your enemies.
“Who is My Neighbor?”
The great musicologist and Congregational minister Erik Routley was once greeting his parishioners as they left church on Sunday. He noticed one of the teenage girls carrying one of the popularizing versions of the Scriptures. “I see you have the new translation of the Bible,” he said. “How do you like it?” She answered, “I suppose I do like it, but it’s in such simple language that it fools me into thinking I actually understand.”
Repetition of God’s word does the same thing, of course. We’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan so often in our lives that we cease to realize just how revolutionary it is. So let’s replace the word “Samaritan” with a contemporary equivalent. How about “Taliban”? How about “militant homosexual”? Or, for some of you, “Democrat”? For others, “Republican”? For all of us “anti-Catholic”?
The reality is that our enemy is also our neighbor. In fact, if you read Luke intently, you see that our enemy is especially our neighbor. And we are supposed to love him, not just let him love us. This story is a piece with the words of Jesus: do good to those who hate you and persecute you. We are to treat our enemies with special care, special kindness.
This is more than the wise admonitions–keep your friends close and your enemies closer. We are to do good even if they continue to do evil to us. It’s literally impossible for us to do by ourselves. Only Jesus could do this–pray for and forgive those who were killing him even while they are killing him. Only Jesus can do this in us. So let’s start by closing your eyes and imagine one person who can’t stand you and whom you can’t stand either. Imagine an enemy–it doesn’t even have to be your worst enemy. Now, in your mind, forgive him or her. And, with that same picture in your mind, pray for that person’s good. This is a mental exercise that we ought to do every day or so–make it a habit. When we do that, we will eventually begin to smile when we think of our enemy. And when we see that foe, we may instinctively smile. Who knows, perhaps our good will can make him not our enemy. But whether there is any good outcome there or not, we will be more like Jesus, and that is never a bad idea.