Doug never got along with his brother-in-law, Steve. His sister, Joan, had married Steve when Doug was a freshman in high school. Steve had a cynical outlook on life and thought everyone was out to get him. Steve ran his own business, and was rather successful at it. His wife was his “business partner” and administrative assistant. Doug thought that Steve was sometimes hard on Joan as far as business matters were concerned. She was the kind of person who always wanted to keep everyone happy. So, there were times when Doug thought his sister should speak her mind and not just go along.
Doug and Steve would often have disagreements about any number of things—-just life in general. And Doug would think to himself, “Dear Lord, don’t ever let me have to be dependent on my brother-in-law for anything. That would be a nightmare.”
Well, as things turned out, when Doug was in his fifties, he ran into some financial difficulties. On top of this he was laid off from work. Doug wasn’t the best manager of money and sometimes lived beyond his means. When he did eventually make some cuts in his expenses, it was too little too late.
One night Doug was over his sister’s house. After dinner, Steve had gone downstairs for something and Joan asked Doug about his finances. Doug didn’t want to talk about it and just shut the whole conversation down.
A few days later Doug received a call from Steve. This was very unusual so Doug thought that something had happened to his sister. But that wasn’t the reason for the call. Instead, Steve offered to help Doug with his financial problem. Doug thought his sister put him up to this, so Doug said he was fine and didn’t need any help. He hung up the phone.
The next day, there was a knock on Doug’s apartment door. It was Steve. He had an envelope in his hand and offered it to Doug. In the envelope was a check for ten thousand dollars. At first Doug refused to take the money. He didn’t want to owe Steve. There would be no living with him. But there was something in Leo’s manner this time that seemed different. Maybe he wasn’t doing this so he could say “I told you so”. And Doug found himself able to let go of his pride and accept the help which he did need. Perhaps Doug had been wrong in his assessment of his brother-in-law.
Today we hear the familiar story of the Good Samaritan. And usually our attention goes to the Samaritan who was so charitable. But how about looking at the story from the perspective of the Jewish person who had been mugged? Someone described this as the “view from the ditch”.
The people hearing this story for the 1st time would have identified with the victim. They could easily imagine themselves lying there on their backs, having been stripped of all their resources, and then, opening their eyes, looking up and being forced to see, horror of horrors, one’s hated enemy as the merciful face of God! It was their worst nightmare. Unable to resist, they would be forced to accept “Godly mercy” from someone they wanted to have nothing to do with.
Yet, when a person is in real need, their outlook on life changes. And even their view of others—-and God—-changes. Having been stripped of everything, including one’s hates and prejudices, they are more open to accepting mercy from the least likely person. And maybe they are more open to the presence of God in their life.
So when Jesus says, “Go and do likewise” he did not necessarily mean for them to imitate the Samaritan as much as it meant to imitate the victim. If compassion and love can come from one’s enemy, then on one is enemy, everyone is neighbor. Quite a lesson.
So this parable is not as much about the kindness of the Good Samaritan as it is about the conversion of the challenged victim shocked to find mercy where he/she thought it could never be found. Forced to see a friend in one considered an enemy.