Wednesday, March 8, 2017


As we talk about persons who are willing to become unclean for the sake of love, we must also look at the other side of this equation - those who are willing to become unclean for the sake of being loved. 

Because love, my friends, is a two-way street. We cannot simply give and give and give love into the world without learning to be loved in return. And this takes us to Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, a fine story, indeed.

So this all starts when Jesus declares that we are to love our neighbor and some smarty pants in the crowd shouts back, "But who is my neighbor?" Then Jesus tells the story of a man who was injured along the side of the road. Two faithful - "clean" - persons pass him right by, even crossing over to the other side of the road to avoid him, but a third person - a Samaritan - stops to help. 

Now, what we have to understand about all of this is that the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. They weren't friends, and they certainly weren't neighbors. The Jews easily thought of the Samaritans as unclean, not only because essentially everything they did was detestable to the Jews (a personal preference, really, not anything that could necessarily be proven in court) but because even their worship was impure. The Samaritans were convinced that they had the right worship; the Jews were convinced that they didn't. So the very idea that a Samaritan would stop to help was repugnant to the Jewish audience.

And what we're not told, but what is equally true, is how many of the Jews would have squirmed at the idea of a man, even an injured man, being touched by a Samaritan, even a Samaritan who was attempting to help him. 

You might as well roll the injured man in dung. That's how disgusting this whole idea is.

The Jews were likely also thinking how willing they would be to just stay in the ditch until someone else stopped. They might wave that Samaritan off, telling him they were okay and were just taking a short rest or perhaps looking for a lost contact down there in the soil. No, no. Really, I'm fine. No need for you to stop and help. That bone sticking out of my leg? Uh, no, that's piercing thing. All the kids are doing it. I'm fine. Really fine. 

Because no matter how not fine I am right now, you disgust me, and I would rather die in this ditch than let someone like you touch me and make me unclean. 

It sounds harsh, but this is how deep the revulsion went. This is how profoundly the Jews were disgusted by the Samaritans. We don't often think about this when we talk about this story; I'm not sure why. But Jesus here is teaching not just about giving neighbor love, even though that is the conclusion He ultimately states out loud.

The undertones in the story are also about receiving neighbor love. 

So here we have these two stories - Old Testament and New Testament - both about love, both about clean and unclean, and the testimony of both is the same: sometimes, love is unclean. 

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