By Pastor Emmanuel Ilagan
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Lk 10:25-37 ESV)
The priest who took the road that connected Jerusalem and Jericho probably was looking forward to performing his important ceremonial duties at the Temple. But he saw this man lying there motionless, apparently beaten up. He was not sure if the man was still alive. The priest dared not check the man’s condition because if the man turned out to be dead then he would be touching something unclean and he would not be able to perform his religious duties at the Temple.
The Levite, who belonged to the select tribe that normally assisted the priests in their ceremonial responsibilities, was confronted with the same dilemma — touching a possibly dead person would make himself unfit to carry out his role. To avoid any unnecessary interruption and risk he decided to just pass on the other side of the road.
Both the priest and the Levite valued religious ritual and personal convenience above the life of a fellow human being.
Comes now the Samaritan. The Jews looked with disdain at the Samaritans who were not “pure Jews.” They were of a mixed race — half Jew and half Gentile. Their history had tainted their religious beliefs and the Jews considered them as heretics.
Thus those Jews listening to Jesus’ story must have expected that the Samaritan would be the worst offender of all. But they were surprised to hear that it was the Samaritan who showed compassion, stopped and helped the half-dead traveller. It was the Samaritan, despite his “wrong theology” who “gets it” – that human life is precious in God’s sight; and helping a fellow human being sustain that life is what God desires.
God is the giver of human life. It is only God who can rightfully take the gift of life away (Job 1:21).
God created humans in God’s own image and gave them inherent dignity. God preserves us and cares for us so much God knows even the number of hairs on our head!
In the 5th commandment (Ex. 20:13) God put a fence around the sacredness of human life. Murdering a fellow human being is direct disobedience to God. S/he who behaves through word and deed that endangers the health and life of another human being violates this commandment. S/he who denies help to a person in bodily distress when one has the power to do so likewise sins. (See Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Lk. 16:19-31). Jesus valued human life so much that He declared bitter hatred of another person is tantamount to murdering that person (Mt. 5:22) and is a transgression against God.
There are times when our emotions may take over and there is anger in our heart. We are tempted to wish ill upon the car driver who cuts our path; or the gossip who bad-mouths us with the boss in order to secure a job promotion; or the hacker who steals our personal data.
Whenever we violate the 5th commandment we can repent, confess our sin and ask for God’s forgiveness. God so loved us that God chose to become a Man Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ (Jn.1:14) Through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection He reconciles us with God and brings us back into fellowship with our Creator (2 Cor. 5:19). We are then motivated to love our neighbor and value his/her life.
Heavenly Father, teach us to value human life as You intended it to be. Enable us to recognize opportunities to promote the well-being and health of our neighbor so that we may give glory to You. In Christ’s Name. Amen.