Yesterday I was preaching on the parable recorded only by Luke, which appears at Chapter 10 vv25 - 37 of that gospel. I had been asking myself, as I researched commentaries and websites, 'why does Luke tell us this story and no-one else?'
I have preached on this story oodles of times, sometimes trying to redeem the 'villains' the Priest and the Levite, sometimes trying to think who might I/we cast in the role of 'Samaritan'. This week, as I wrote my sermon I felt 'convicted' (whatever that means!) about the popular title, 'The Good Samaritan' and how this perpetuates the bias against Samaritan people. By naming the parable as we do (and neither Jesus not Luke use the term 'Good Samaritan') we make him an exception, a 'good baddy' - we can still despise Samaritans in general because this was a rare good one.
I remember, many years ago now, someone referring to me a 'nice English person,' as if I was somehow distinct from the rest of those born or living in that nation, who were, by inference at least, not 'nice'. I found it hurtful but didn't really understand why - the person was, I am sure, well intended, probably trying to make me feel better about something, but it felt like a kind of 'othering'.
Other comments I have almost certainly used, or have heard used would include 'present company excepted' or 'but I don't mean you' or 'it's not personal'...
'Women don't make good leaders, they are too emotional - present company excepted'
'It's not personal, but I don't think that women should be allowed to preach'
'Brits are so cold and formal - but I don't mean you'
And so on, we can all add our own examples I am sure , it's hard to imagine that many people have never heard or used such a phrase.
When I was doing some work looking at racial justice, white privilege and biases, I came across the idea of 'exceptionalism' - the risk (and reality) that I/we can make exceptions for people we like and admire, without noticing or naming our own biases... the the 'Good Samaritan' allows us to appreciate the individual without recognising or naming our bias against Samaritans in general. Okay, so we aren't biased against actual first century Samaritans, but I know I certainly have biases based on nationality, politics and world view. I don't think I am that unusual!
I find myself strongly challenged by this familiar story, whose message I thought I fully understood, to the extent that I need to find a new title for it that does not depend on the unconscious exceptionalism of making a baddy 'good'.
So why did Luke tell is this story? Yesterday I postulated that as a gentile writing for gentiles, this story in which 'someone like me (only possibly even more of an outsider than I will ever be) becomes the hero... in keeping with the universal love ethic of Jesus in this gospel, it is the often 'outsider' who gets it and acts as example to those inside. Hmm.
The Lord, as always, has more light and truth to break forth from the Word.