By Vashti Jackson
Maybe you have seen a meme going around Facebook about, “The Good Samaritan.” It is called, “Bible School Primer For Governors During Refugee Crisis.” It also points to the priest and the Levite with the words, “These guys are not the heroes of the story,” and to the Samaritan saying, “This guy is the hero of the story (you want to be this guy).
Now, until recently, I really didn’t know what being a Samaritan meant or why it was a big deal. Growing up, the Samaritan was the awesome guy that did the saving no one else did and that was it. Either that, or the Samaritan was a sad, desperate woman getting water from a well, but that’s another story. So, what is a Samaritan, and why should this meme be upsetting to me in response to the refugee crisis?
“In later Hebrew writings the word Samaritan speaks of the people of the district of Samaria in central Palestine. They came from intermarriages of certain Israelites with the colonists from Babylon and other parts of Mesopotamia and Syria. These colonists had been placed there by the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Esarhaddon, after the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered and the stronghold at Samaria fell to the Assyrians. It resulted in thousands of Israelites being deported away, never to be heard from again, and colonists being chosen by the Assyrians and placed in Samaria along with a governor.”
So, When the Jews were trying to rebuild after their Babylonian captivity was over, the Samaritans and the Jews started a long standing hatred for each other. The Samaritans didn’t want the Jews there and the Jews didn’t like the Samaritan’s tainted, un-pure blood. Thus, the cycle began.
Now, that you know this bit of information, does it not change the story of The Good Samaritan? He had compassion for a man that he was supposed to hate and helped him. Also, if you read the story through to completion, do you notice something else that is not mentioned in the meme? Like the fact that the Samaritan took the beat man to an inn and not back to his own home.
According to the book by Kenneth E. Bailey, “Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” this act was fraught with more danger than us with a western mind realize. By taking the beat man, who we believe was a Jew to an inn, he also entered a Jewish village. He also spent the night and left the next morning. This action alone was a risk to him. Note that we do not know the fate of the Samaritan after he leaves the inn. In addition to all of this, he pays for the man’s rehabilitation and safety. The beaten man could have ended up in the slave market or dead if the Samaritan had not taken this precaution.
This bit of information sent my own mind reeling when I read it. It changes the story for me entirely. Even before I had learned this, I believed the best course of action was to help the refugees somewhere outside our country in order to keep our citizens and children safe. After learning this new bit of information, my stance on that has not changed. In fact the more I have learned, the more I am solidified in my belief of that.
In closing, I want to leave you with a verse from Jeremiah 13:23 (MSG), “Can an African change skin? Can a leopard get rid of its spots? So what are the odds on you doing good, you who are so long-practiced in evil?”