The Parable people have been unable to hear for 2000 years

Today when floods of hatred and misanthropy have been overwhelmingly pouring from all mass media, when TV sets and computer monitors, similarly to our real life, shed blood and the worth of human life has become subject to cynic mockery, Christ quietly reminds us all over again what a human being is called to and what his roadmap on this earth is.

This week the Orthodox Church dedicated to the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The parable begins with a certain man of law who decided to tempt the Savior by asking Him questions from the Law of Moses, “What shall I do to earn an eternal life?” Jesus Christ also asks him in return, “What does the law say about it, how do you understand it?” The Pharisee points to the requirements of the Law to have love for God and your neighbor to the extent your heart is capable of. “Well, act like you say, says the Lord, – and you will live forever.” At this point the Pharisee felt like justifying himself, as the Gospel goes. He asks Jesus Christ who he should consider his neighbor, intending to get a definite answer. However, God replies in an amazing way. He does not say ‘WHO” the near one is, but “WHAT” has to be done for another human to be considered as your fellow man. In order to understand how unusual and revolutionary this teaching of Jesus Christ was, we need to refer to the anthropology of that time.

We already used to the idea that the value and significance of any human personality is not questioned. We cannot even fancy it can be somewhat different. But just a few know the fact that the teaching about the value of human personality, as well as the notion itself, was introduced into the world by the Lord Jesus Christ. The notions like personality and individuality hadn’t existed before, and the human life had been devoid of any worth per se.

Pagan folks identified the value of human by his/her belonging to a tribe, a clan, a family line, a polis, or a citizenship. In the Greek-Hellenic world a human being is the one who is a citizen of the polis and thus can enjoy certain rights. If it was an alien person, a foreigner, he couldn’t be considered a human at all. He could be treated like a beast that had walked into the territory which was not his property. Such foreigner could be killed, cut with a knife, taken captive, sold etc. For this reason nobody treated slaves as humans. They were just trade tools to be exploited for the sake of somebody’s profit. Nobody could even dream of slaves having some rights. After all, can animals have any rights? It was also the case with other nations: we treat you as our equal and reckon with you as long as you are a member of our tribe. All the rest are either allies or enemies, but they will always remain alien.

A similar attitudinal position was common for the Peculiar People – Jews. “Theirs” meant to them those who originated from Abraham’s seed. Moses’ Commandments were addressed only to them and had nothing to do with the others. In the late Judaism all those who did not belong to the Jewish nation were referred to as “goys” – unpeople, subhumans, half-made ones. The notion of “human” in its direct meaning was applied by orthodox Judaists solely to the Jewish people.

Perhaps, the man of law anticipated namely this answer to the question about the “neighbor”. Yet he heard something totally different to his expectations. Christ points to the Samaritan as a role model rather than the Jew, i.e. a representative of the ethnos being hated by Judaists, the one who couldn’t be not only spoken to, but even approached. This contemptible Samaritan appears in the interpretation of Jesus Christ as an example of virtue. Who appear as negative characters in the parable then? Who did not act duly? This is the elite of Judaist nation – a priest and a Levite – those who are supposed to interpret the Law correctly. They passed by the fellow tribesman, beaten by gangsters, while the Samaritan, who was despised by Jews, acted in a proper way. He helped the injured man, treating his wounds with oil and wine, took him to the hospital, paid for his stay and treatment there. One can surely assume the oil and the wine, which the Samaritan was carrying with him, were intended for a religious ritual, for the sacrifice to God. By this example Jesus stresses what sacrifice is acceptable before God – mercy and awareness of God instead burnt sacrifice.

What remained unconceivable to Judaists is that our loved one is any human being who needs our help and support right now and right here. The parable gives us an example of the merciful Samaritan, for whom the law of love was inscribed in his heart and for whom his neighbor wasn’t his fellow thinker or a congener, but the one who he had met by chance and who needed his help and love at that very moment.

Perhaps, each person, who has seriously thought over his/her spiritual life, has reflected more than once on the commandment of love for God and a fellow man. Each of us has got the experience of what it is like to love your father, mother, husband, wife, and children. We do understand what it means to love. But at the same time we can see that the instrument to help us love others is embedded within the human nature: our senses – sight, hearing, thinking etc. We use them to translate our love into actions. That is why it hurts a lot when we lose our dear ones, when we no longer can touch, smell, stroke and hear them. Our love needs a particular image of the person we love. But how is it possible to learn to have love for God Who we are unable to see, hear and hug, Who we can just imagine somehow and herewith realize that our work of imagination is most likely a human fiction with regard to the incomprehensible Creator? We read His Commandments, try to get the point, yet it is too little to have true love. It’s impossible to love theoretically, in fact. One can love only tangibly and substantively.

Our Lord is aware of it and offers us to personify our love to Him. He offers to treat anybody by our side, irrespective of his attitude to us, in a way as if it were Jesus Christ Himself. In the Last Judgment Parable God puts an identity sign between the love to God and the love to our fellow man. What we do for him/her we do for God. You gave Me shoes, you gave Me clothes, you gave Me food, visited Me in the dark cell, hospital etc. You were able to warm Me with your love and care. If you were able to love your enemy, you are My son, because I also love so. I send the rain and the sun on kind and evil creatures equally. If you find it difficult to love Me, invisible and inconceivable, then you should love a human next to you, and I will consider you righteous. The parable teaches us a viable love toward our fellow men. Our eternal life depends on how much we’ll excel at this science of love. According to Anthony the Great, “Our life and death depend on our neighbor. For if we acquire a brother, we acquire God, but if we seduce our brother, we sin against Christ.”
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