Almost everyone has heard the parable of the Good Samaritan:
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
27He 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'[a]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b]"
28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
36"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
Though everyone has heard of this parable, not everyone gets the full meaning, because not everyone has heard of the Samaritans. The Samaritans were an ethnic-religious group that, at the time, was the subject of widespread prejudice and contempt. Jesus' audience would have felt a tug of cognitive dissonance seeing them portrayed as the good neighbor of the story. It's roughly as if Jesus told the parable to a Tea Party audience and the person who rescued the injured traveler was Nancy Pelosi or something. So clarified, the moral of the story is no longer obvious, but meaningful, and consonant with Jesus' message that there are no unclean peoples.
I bring this up because today I was the beneficiary of a Samaritan. On the way back from church camp, our car was smashed hard from the right on the freeway, driving us into the left shoulder. The curtain airbag deployed. My first perception of the crash was being showered with water from the water bottles in the passenger door blowing up. The curtain airbag worked as advertised — Katrina and Abby, on the passenger side, were uninjured save for Katrina's bruised and scraped arm. But the car is likely a write-off–the passenger door is badly intruded and the frame damaged.
As we waited for AAA and the cops on the side of the noisy 100 degree freeway, another family returning from church camp stopped for us, offered us help, and ended up taking the two hot, tired, and terrified older kids home while we waited for the tow. They're huge USC boosters, an issue of friendly dispute between us, and their car reflects it. I've never been so happy to see the USC logo. The USC boosters were unquestionably the good neighbors in this story. I'm taking a vacation from bashing Tommy Trojan.
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