The Good Samaritan parable applies to individuals and nations acts

Estimated read time 3 min read

How we understand Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan should grow from being one of individual actions to the actions of nations. One of the first parables introduced to us as children learning about Jesus is the story of the Good Samaritan. We learn that is good to always help a stranger in need. We understand as a story about individual behavior and decision making when encountering another person in distress.

Paul tells us in In I Corinthians 13:11-23 (NRSV) When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. Paul is saying our wisdom and understanding grows as we grow. We see our existence for example as first in our family, then our community, and finally in the world.

When we are older the Samaritan story becomes more complicated. We now understand that there was hatred between the “traditional Jews” among whom Jesus was raised and the Samaritans. Although they also valued Moses and the first five books of Pentateuch they also held other beliefs the Jews considered pagan. In addition they did not follow the tradition of marrying within the tribe. It was forbidden by the Jews for their tribe to associate or even touch a Samaritan.

Instead of just being a good guy helping someone in need. Now the Good Samaritan is someone who is defying boundaries set upon him by his religious leaders to heed a greater law of God to love his neighbor. To show that love he will contaminate himself with impurity and use his treasure of which we presume he had little to help another in need. So Jesus is telling us to practice an unlimited love for our neighbor even if it means significant sacrifice, even our own life.

I believe this is not the end of evolution about how we should think about this parable. The Bible and Jesus are not just talking about individual actions. They are also talking about our actions as members of nations. The idea of collective salvation and collective damnation are common in the Bible. There are many examples in the Bible where members of a tribe or nation were collectively punished and even the sins of the father were carried to the sons because they practiced a culture which harmed God’s most prized creation our fellow man.

Today we often hear the terms “national interest” or a focus on “national security or national economy” when we are discussing issues outside our borders or even inside our borders of those we consider inferior. These prejudices allow us to be indifferent to the suffering of people we consider outsiders. Jesus teaches us that all mankind is dear to him and should be to us. The lesson of the Good Samaritan parable applies to us as members of nations to carry out our sacred duty as custodians of God’s creation.

Professor Tony Magana

Dr. Tony Magana is Professor Emeritus in Neurosurgery who spent many years doing international teaching and research including 10 years in Ethiopia. Over the past 15 years he concomitantly intensified his Christian faith through study and worship through the Episcopal Church. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Attended Texas A&M University, Harvard Medical School, and trained at the University of Miami. Additionally he took the University of South Education for Ministry as well as attending the Southeast Florida Episcopal Diocesan School for Christian Studies.
Professor Tony Magana, a seasoned neurosurgeon, has not only dedicated his life to medical practice but also embarked on a profound spiritual journey. Over the past 15 years, he has deepened his Christian faith through study and worship within the Episcopal Church. His experiences span international teaching, research, and a decade of service in Ethiopia
Dr. Tony Magana’s writings blend faith, compassion, and wisdom, inviting readers to explore the intersection of spirituality and the human experience. His journey serves as an inspiration for those seeking deeper connections with faith and humanity.

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