“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.” Luke 10:33 NLT
You can certainly pick up the prejudicial tension in Jesus’ telling of this well known story we have come to refer to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Prejudice, a preconceived, irrational and judgmental attitude or action toward an individual or group was obviously as serious problem in Jesus’ day as it is in ours.
Jews and Samaritans did not get along because they were ethnically, culturally and religiously different from one another. Their prejudices, just like ours, were rooted in stereotypes that had been inherited or learned and sadly gave them a distorted perception of reality. It is likely, if the Jewish guy who was beaten, robbed and left laying half dead alongside the road had been conscious, he would not have wanted to have anything to do with the Samaritan who stopped to help him.
So what could possibly have motivated the Samaritan to set aside his own prejudice in order to get involved in such a messy and potentially racially charged situation? Why did he choose to cross the road while two religious Jews refused and “passed by on the other side”?
Jesus told this parable in order to redefine the meaning of the words love and neighbor, as used in the context of the second great commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We learn that love is proactive and a neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact – even those who are not like us, against whom we may hold prejudicial attitudes and may in fact be our enemies.
In the verse quoted above from this parable Jesus explains why the Samaritan was able to set aside his negative preconceptions and turn aside from his journey to cross the road.