Improving Samaritans

like JesusBy comparison to the “Ideal Samaritan” we’re all quite “Inadequate Samaritans” don’t you think? Since we’re not very much like him, “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10) status seems a little too lofty to my ears, so I’d like to recommend that we at least aspire to the rank of “Improving Samaritans.”

Don’t forget, we’re playing a real-life game of “Follow the Leader.” Jesus wants us to follow him – copy him, if you will. That doesn’t mean we’re on a trajectory to become Junior Saviors, but we e shooting to be clearer signage that points people to him. As Improving Samaritans we want to love the Father and one another as he did.

In contrast to the excuses of “Not-So-Good Samaritans” I propose these targets to put in our sights…

  • Improving Samaritans enlarge the boundaries of their neighborhood

Samaritans in Jesus’ day experienced a form of “apartheid.” The root meaning of this Afrikaans’ term means “the state of being apart,” literally “apart-hood” ­– otherwise put, not treated in a very neighborly way. The loophole-seeking Bible expert asked Jesus the now famous “neighbor-question” – “Who is it I have to love again?” Improving Samaritans don’t make such inquiries. They get off their asses (oops, I mean donkeys) and lend a hand up.

I’m sure you realize that in that day the concept of a “Good Samaritan” would go over about as well as a “good terrorist” or a “good crack-dealer” would in our time. Casting a hated, half-breed Samaritan in the story to help a Jew would be about as palatable as hearing that a gay black guy in rural Arkansas saved the life of a dying skinhead and nursed him back to health!

Our “Ideal Samaritan” considered everyone his neighbor. If we want to be like him, even when people don’t look like us, smell like us, speak like us, believe or behave like us; they’re our neighbors, and we must love them as much as we love ourselves.

  • Improving Samaritans are willing to risk danger to help their neighbors

When they saw the destitute man lying there, the priest and the Levite escaped to the safe side of the road. Who knows what kind of dangers lurked around the next bend in the road! The Samaritan, on the other hand, just by being out of Samaria had ventured way outside of safety, let alone being on that treacherous Jericho Road. He took an enormous risk by stopping to help a man who would naturally despise him. It no doubt would have occurred to him how suspicious it would look for him to be walking into town –a Jewish community – with a half-dead guy on his donkey! He could have been lynched before anyone thought to ask him for an explanation.

Our “Ideal Samaritan” took the risk to come here and preach his message. He knew he’d be mocked, beaten, and strung up, yet he came.

“Improving Samaritans” won’t circle the wagons when they feel the least threat. They resist the temptation toward timidity and protectionism. They won’t huddle together in fear of people who aren’t like them. 

  • Improving Samaritans transform rejection into redemption

All Samaritans are hated, especially the “Ideal” One. But he transformed his rejection into redemption. While bleeding to death he forgave his executioners mid-spurn. He served, and continues to serve, even those who spit on him.

He could’ve fought back and won without working up one drop of sweat. But it was his cross, not his throne that was his most effectual pulpit from which to win souls. One man with a front row seat pled, “Remember me!” while another who was there shouted, “This man was the Son of God!”

Improving Samaritans should be advised that it’s hard to serve people we refuse to forgive. We too preach better sermons from crosses.

  • Improving Samaritans dismount from their “high horses” (or donkeys as the case may be).

The Samaritan draped the unconscious victim across the back of his “steed” and walked alongside the rest of the way. He disadvantaged himself for the disadvantaged one. Reminds us of Jesus who humbled himself and gave us his ride.

We “Improving Samaritans” are learning to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. We’ll do what it takes to do for others what we would want them to do for us if we were in their place. Sound familiar?

“Be willing to associate with people of low degree…” Romans 12

  • Improving Samaritans are willing to get dirty tending to the wounded

The root meaning of one of the New Testament terms for “servant” is one who is so intent on serving others that they “kick up dust” on their way to help them. They’re never above getting dirty for the sake of the soiled.

Our Savior Samaritan stoops to bandage our bloody messes. If we’re lying in the dust, that’s where you’ll find Jesus helping us up. Given there were no paved roads or running water, any mental image of a squeaky-clean Christ must be discarded. Though not hygienically advisable, he embraced lepers and other grossly ill people.

If we want to be more like him we’ll have to resist running to the sterile side of the road.

  • Improving Samaritans together form a therapeutic community

The Samaritan brought the mugging victim to an inn to rest and recuperate. In like manner, our “Ideal Samaritan” puts broken people in the hands of Improving Samaritans, a community of motley Samaritans called the Church. For ongoing rehabilitation, he places the broken in the hands of those who care for them almost as much as he does. Though they had no room in the inn for him at his birth, he trusts the sick and injured to the inn of other wounded healers, his therapeutic community for the ongoing healing of his beloved.

“He sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68

Next, I’d like to share how we so-called “Improving Samaritans” influence people toward our “Ideal Samaritan”…

For feedback, let me turn this around and ask you how you’ve been served by this kind of Improving Samaritan? Has anyone risked it to enlarge their neighborhood to include you or gotten dirty tending your wounds? Who’s been a Good Samaritan to you?

6 Replies to “Improving Samaritans”

  1. I had a real come-to-Jesus moment in 1995 shortly after moving to Phoenix, AZ, the big city, from some of the most remote country in the continental US. I was young and naïve. I was in culture shock. But I pushed through it with lots of prayer.

    I was a “metal head” with the hair and tee shirts to match. I did not look the part of a praying Christian. Licking my own dope addiction, I looked like part of the problem rather than the solution. Nicotine stained my fingers, my speech was peppered with nastiness, and I was bluffing my way along the best I could – trying to be an American, Rugged – individualist.

    So, when my car broke down and threatened everything I had, I almost called my family back home who had driven me crazy to begin with, because I knew they would “save” me. But I decided to give my new church a chance. I called a lady who had proven to be helpful before and she took care of me in high style.

    I really do not have space here to tell all the incredible details. Buy the book – someday, maybe I will write it all there. But I will sum it up like this: If I had showed up on my own doorstep, I would have turned me away. But this lady and her husband sacrificed deeply for me. They gave me their classic Chevy truck that her husband had been restoring, and let me drive it for several weeks as I raised the money to repair my clunker.

    People often would tell me, “Man, that is a cool truck!” But it wasn’t mine. And there was not limit placed on it. I used it almost a month. In fact a year later, I got in the same jam, and they gave the truck to me a second time – about a week that time.

    I remember thinking that God had rolled out a red carpet for me. He welcomed me into his grace beyond measure. I was in a very powerful position to do harm with it too. He was trusting me with the hearts of his servants. I can only imagine that if I had wrecked that truck, none of us would have been able to restore it again.

    But that worked on me like nothing before. My prayers turned from cries in fear to thanks, and I enlisted in the Kingdom Cause!


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