Naming the Story

September 19th, 2019 Posted in writing

One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. But we could also name it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking or, finally, the Story of the Person Who Cared. Depending on the person or persons we center on, the story’s focus changes and gives us different things to think about.

For instance, if we call it the Parable of the Beaten Traveler, we might ask if we have ever been in a situation similar to his. We probably have been if we’ve ever found ourselves victimized, attacked physically, verbally, psychologically, or mentally and left lying at the side of the road, bruised and hurt and just wishing someone would come along to help us.

If we name the story the Tale of the Two Men Who Kept Walking, then we might ask if we have passed people by, either because we simply don’t see them lying along our way or because we choose not to find out who they are, how they got there or how we might be able to help them. Perhaps, if we do see them, we may feel some pity but think that we don’t have time for reaching out or that maybe they’re pulling a scam to get money.

Lastly, we can continue to call the story the Parable of the Good Samaritan, remembering that Jesus’ audience might have been surprised that a Samaritan would be capable of doing anything good, selfless or compassionate. The Jewish listeners of the day might have expected that the priest and Levite who passed by would have stopped to help the man. But those two ignored him, while the Samaritan went out of his way to tend to the man and even pay for his care at an inn. Have we ever gone out of our way to help someone who is not part of our family, neighborhood, ethnic or racial group?

Of the three names we could give this story, which grabs our attention most, and which part do we most frequently find ourselves playing?

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