Who are your Samaritans?

The following is a true story by Micah Brickner.

It was winter, in the early 2000s. It was cold. It was also snowing. My father and I were getting ready to drive to the store in our less-than-reliable 1980-something Chevy Celebrity. The car’s alternator was having some issues, and the engine would not stay running. We had not traveled very far down the main street in my hometown when the car was not able to make it.

Whatever the issue ended up being, I remembered that we needed someone to help us jump the car’s battery. My father struggled with a form of anxiety that could render him into a significant panic from situations like this one — this one did just that.

I was too young to be of much help, other than walking to someone’s house to ask for help. We did not have a cell phone, and we did not necessarily know what to do.

Suddenly, walking down the street we saw our pastor. We asked for his help, but he said he was running late for a meeting and could not help. It was disappointing, but we moved on.

Next we saw a neighbor, who happened to be a Sunday school teacher. We asked if he could jump the car. And he responded quickly by indicating that his car’s battery was probably too unreliable to be able to help us. My father tried to explain that this man’s car would be fine, but he continued to find excuses. We were left to figure out how to solve this problem on our own.

Then an old panel van came driving up alongside our car. The driver rolled down his window and asked if we needed help. We quickly realized that it was our neighbor … our Muslim neighbor. He pulled onto the side of the road, rummaged for a pair of jumper cables, and quickly helped us get back on the road. It was such a simple gesture, but it was a meaningful one — one that my family still talks about fondly today.

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it wonderfully parallels a parable Jesus told when he was trying to break down the religious prejudice of his day. In his excellent article, “My Good Samaritan was a Muslim”, Mr. Brickner illustrates the kind of relationship between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day is very similar to that of many Christians and Muslims today.

I was interested in this subject because I observed that just like the Jews and Samaritans, Christians and Muslims have similar origins.

  • Christians and Muslims believe that there is only one God (unlike religions such as Hinduism).
  • Christianity and Islam both descended from Judaism and the worship of the God of Abraham.
  • Christians and Muslims believe that the word of their God was revealed to them through prophets; both believe that Jesus was a prophet who performed miracles.

But just like Jews and Samaritan, Christians and Muslims diverge significantly in what they believe beyond that. Furthermore, centuries of animosity including present-day violence have created fear, suspicion, and even hatred between the two. Mr. Brickner observes, “It is true that Islamic extremism is a very dangerous and frightening reality — but so is Christian white supremacy. We cannot hold Islamic terrorists as the ideal of what it means to be a Muslim, just like we should not hold Christian terrorists as the ideal of what it means to be a Christian.”

Last Sunday I asked, “Who are your Samaritans?” Could it be that for many American evangelicals those people would be Muslims? Have we allowed fear, suspicion, or even hatred to keep us from “loving our neighbor” who lives in our community? How can we move beyond this these to “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”?

Let’s follow the example of Jesus who modeled this perfectly, in fact, all the way to the cross! This Sunday we’ll see the on-going story about how Jesus opened the heart of the Samaritan woman at the well and how it transformed her entire community.

In Christ,