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By GEORGE R. PASLEY
Of all the passages in the Bible, the parable of the Good Samaritan must surely be one of the most well known. The title alone is enough for most folk to recall the traveler who stopped to help someone in need, after two other travelers had passed by.
In the parable, told by Jesus and recorded in the Gospel of Luke, a man is mugged and left half-dead along a desolate but well traveled section of road (the trail where Jesus set the parable is still there). Two quite religious people passed him by, while a foreigner stopped, dressed the victim’s wounds, carried him to an inn, and paid the costs of food and lodging — both the up-to-the-minute costs, and a promise to pay any further costs — fulfilling the commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself."
To this day, persons of good will, and persons of resolve, as well as congregations, communities, and all society, have accepted the story as a model for good living. We’ll stop to help someone stranded beside the road, or someone fallen in a public place, or someone who has the appearance of needing consoling. We’ll throw in a few coins or few dollars when someone passes the hat, or when someone in the checkout line comes up short, and we’ll buy cookies or candy or whatever from that child knocking at our door — not because we really want the thing they’re selling, but because we want to help.
Our churches band together to support Love INC, a Christian ministry to persons and families in need. Most all of them support some missions elsewhere in America and around the world. But there are other ways of being a good neighbor.
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who helped her family hide, and guide to safety, dozens of Jews during World War II. That was a dangerous and heroic act, an action that was in complete accord with the biblical standard of loving your neighbor. But we need not find ourselves in such dramatic moments in history to do the same sort of thing.
It is being a neighbor to offer mercy — to forgive, to speak up on behalf of another, to ask forgiveness, to defend another’s rights, to advocate for systematic changes that might make life less grueling and unbearable for someone else, to pay a big tip even if the service wasn’t that good, or to simply offer a word of encouragement or cheer to a stranger.
In ancient times, farmers were instructed not to gather every single grain of wheat from their fields, in order to leave some for the poor to gather. This summer, in many of the fruit- and vegetable-producing regions of our nation, volunteers are gathering the remnants of the harvests, and taking their gleanings to local food distribution networks. It’s an act of love, of neighborliness, of generosity — and of hope, for the time when everyone will have enough.
George R. Pasley is pastor at Ketchikan Presbyterian Church.