David Rogers Ministries

A contemporary perspective on the Good Samaritan

The contemporary world has changed from the world of Jesus, although many of the issues and attitudes still remain. In modern society love is a frequently used word, so before examining love of neighbour, we have to consider what is meant by love, and the term ‘love of God’. In 1 John it says, “If we really love God we love our neighbour too”. (1 John 4:20) Caring for our neighbours in 21st century United Kingdom can present a whole range of challenges, because most people live in a multicultural society where love has become a word which is so casually used that it appears to have lost its real meaning.

Love is expressed in a variety of ways. It is caring, trusting, loyalty, affection and passion, a wholehearted liking or feeling a strong emotion for someone or thing. It can be seen by people wanting to do things for those they love, help them, showing them love through action. When you love a person the relationship can only develop if the love is reciprocal. A person can love football or tennis but this kind of love cannot be returned, this type of love can be self-centred or regarded as a worship of false idols such as pop stars, but this is not the kind of love shown in Luke 10:25-37.  

Love is therefore a complicated human emotion that can be seen in a variety of ways. In the context of the passage the Priest, Levite, and the Lawyer all knew what the law and teaching told them they must do, but Jesus sought to demonstrate it was a heart felt response to our fellow human beings whoever they are, that truly shows our love of God. God’s love for people is an unconditional love that accepts us, faults and all. The expression of our deepest feelings of love can sometimes only be done when we are in the presence of those whom we love. Perhaps this is why people feel able to express their feelings to God through prayer, worship, and in cries of anguish when they are suffering.

Love of God and Neighbour
The Lawyer in the passage from Luke understood love of God and neighbour at an academic and intellectual level as do many people today. In a Christian community people show God’s love by helping the homeless, giving to charity, working and fundraising for groups like Christian Aid, but many people outside of the Christian community also do this. Jesus points out that, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?” (Matthew 5:46-7) The natural heartfelt response of the Samaritan reflects the action of a person who is reflecting the love of God to their neighbour. Often it is the person, who is working out of the public gaze helping a person in need, who is showing God their love for him and their fellow human beings. The important and challenging part for people living in a multicultural society is to show love and compassion without discrimination. 

How can we apply love of neighbour?
Helping people in need is an important part of caring for others. People do not have to publicly demonstrate, or confirm in public acceptance of their faith, because God sees everything we do and knows if this is a genuine act, or just a show for the purpose of boosting a person’s image. In a caring society when someone is in trouble or has a problem, a caring person will automatically response by trying to help them even though they may be a stranger, that is when a person demonstrates their love of others. Like the Samaritan, when he saw the man in trouble he helped him even though he did not know him.

In practising love of neighbour people ought to be prepared to stand up and challenge the divisions and conflicts which are causing so much suffering in the contemporary world. The divisions between God’s people did not end with the Jews and Samaritans. The divisions between Jews, Christian and Muslims have resulted in many bloody conflicts, the Middle East and Africa being a prime example. If the Church is to practice love of neighbour it clearly has to start with healing the divides between the denominations.

Luke 10:25-37 is still relevant to all in the 21st century, it also presents a challenge to people’s attitude toward others not just their neighbour, and this applies to communities as well as individuals.

The concerns that emerged from the passage, in the opinion of the writer, are as follows:-
Loving God is not just a matter of worship and prayer it is helping people in a practical way. The importance of the Law can be seen by the stress placed on it in other parts of the New Testament (Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:9.) If communities are to put the teaching of Jesus into practice they will need to look at how they help people within the whole community. The teaching in Luke 10:25-37 put into simple terms means helping anyone a person encounters with problems. Caring for our fellows is a big challenge in the contemporary world, because it not only challenges individuals within society, but society as a whole. 

The divisions in society can only be bridged through greater cooperation at all levels of the community. In addition to inter faith dialogue, which can develop greater understanding and tolerance, there needs to be greater engagement within the community with joint activities not behaving as though the different groups were companies competing for business.

Christians in the United Kingdom’s multicultural society live along side Muslims, Hindus and Jews with relationships between these groups being at times confrontational, so the passage from Luke is still very relevant to them. Working for reconciliation between conflicting groups and to work to develop communities of hope and peace is a challenge to all leaders with a community. Only when all people within the different communities are willing to work together will we achieve peace and cooperation to help the vulnerable members of our society.  


Copyright David William Rogers 2015