art of good samaritan

on asking the right question


On asking the right question: Jesus was both a masterful storyteller and “yarn spinner” (to use an Irish expression.) He was able to cleverly turn a conversation into a kingdom chat. Particularly in the matter of Q & A he would often rephrase or restate or flat out challenge the question. A great example of this is the story, perhaps the best known of all his parables, of the good Samaritan. The setting was a question posed either from sincere motive or as a theoretical sparring challenge. He asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life. Jesus turned the question back to him (a great strategy!) When asked what the lawyer knew from the Scriptures he answered well and Jesus said so. To love God and neighbour is indeed the forensic evidence of true faith, true religion. However Luke tells us that the lawyer becomes combative and demands to know who his neighbour is. So Jesus tells our story! It is one full of undercurrents and surprises. The bottom line is that Jesus doesn’t answer the question but answers the pertinent question that should have been the lawyer’s query: “How can I love my neighbour?” The scenario is one in which the Samaritan showed practical (how?) love to the person he might have been least likely to love, possibly his enemy, while religious leaders chose not to love the person they should have been most likely to aid. We have promoted the ideas and books of Bob Goff who famously helps us understand that it is one thing to agree with Jesus but another thong entirely to do what he says. At the end of the encounter Jesus asks the right question: “who was neighbour to the man in need?” Then he says “go and do the same.” Pretty plain teaching. Pretty blunt. An open-hearted conversation with Jesus would be “how can I love my neighbour?” And “who is the person I am least inclined or obliged to help and what lengths can I go to in order to love that person?”