|Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes - Spiritual Nourishment for the Soul - November 2007|
The Good Samaritan verses the Bad Samaritan
In the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25 - 37), Jesus tells the story of a man from Samaria who, as he was going about his own business, perhaps returning home from some travel, happened upon a Jewish man who had been (in contemporary terms) "mugged" and robbed and left lying by the side of the road. Despite the fact that Jews and Samaritans were at that time divided by culture, religious belief, political ideology, and other factors, much as Serbians and Albanians, or Greeks and Turks, for example, are today, the Samaritan stopped and ministered to the injured Jew.
There are several lessons we can glean from this parable. The one usually preached relates to the message that a Christian's obligation is to "love thy neighbor" as well as loving God...
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
He answered: " '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.'"
"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" - Luke 10 Verse 25-29
It is at this point that Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan to illustrate that all people are our neighbors, i.e., anyone who needs our assistance. Assisting is thus "loving the neighbor" and this is the path we must take to salvation.
But there are other concepts the parable brings to mind as well. God created all of us, the entire human race, to live in community. We know this not only philosophically or theologically, we also know it to be a fact from a scientific perspective. Psychologists have studied human behavior for decades and one of the things they have learned for certain is that people need other people; we are not happy when we are alone for long periods of time.
But too often modern man does not live in community with his fellow man. Increasingly today many people have become alienated from others, from society overall, from their cultural roots, and of course, from their Creator. For when one becomes estranged from one's neighbors, one also becomes separated from God. Where there is no love for one's fellow man, our hearts also turn cold toward God.
And so we have alienated, emotionally disturbed, angry people setting fires in Greece and now, most recently, in California. Who would do such a thing? Obviously someone who does not feel any love for his neighbor or for God, much less for himself.
Increasingly in our modern world, large numbers of people are "dropping out" of society, losing their concept of being one with the people they then subsequently harm. We have children going on shooting sprees at high schools and universities. We have terrorists releasing poison gas in subways. We have young men filled with so much rage against the rest of us that they are willing to lose their own lives in order to crash planes into our buildings and turn our cities to lifeless rubble. These behaviors are the culmination of extreme alienation which is, of course, precisely the opposite of loving God and neighbor.
What can we do? Repent of our own coldness of heart, our own tendency to walk on by when we see a victim who may not be a member of our immediate group or class. Resolve to truly love God by loving all we meet, whether we approve of them or even like them. Jesus didn't say help only people who are like you, or who you like. He said "Love your neighbor." That is the way to salvation; that is the test of whether we really love God.
May our Lord God always bless you!
Peace to your soul!
Humbly in our Risen Lord,+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!
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(c) Reverend Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes