Thanks to Jesus’ famous parable in Luke chapter 10 about highway bandits and an amazing rescue, the word Samaritan today always connotes compassion and generosity. The term has become a compliment.
Ironically in Jesus’ time, it was the opposite. To call someone a Samaritan was to insult him. The Jews viewed their “middle neighbors” as racial half-breeds and renegades to their religious tradition. They showed their disapproval and fear by avoidance: “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). When riding or walking from Judea in the south to Galilee in the north, Jewish travelers preferred to cross the Jordan and go the long way ’round in order to minimize any contact with “those” people.
Not much has changed human nature in two thousand years. There is a strong urge in us all to avoid people not like us and to associate only with people who share our race or tribe or social or economic level. Satan grins at all racial and cultural firewalls. Keeping people apart minimizes movement of the gospel. It also increases the chances that the isolated “avoiders” group will grow stagnant.
It takes no brains or courage to avoid people. It takes Christ, and Christ-inspired believers, to create a culture that sees people movements not as threats but as opportunities to share the Word of Life.
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