A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:25-37)
Who is my neighbor? The nameless, unconscious, socially despised stranger on the brink of death. What does it mean to love him? To physically intervene on his behalf, even if it costs time, money, safety, and prestige. Jesus builds his narrative on neighbors so different, so detached, so disconnected that it becomes impossible to classify anyone as a non-neighbor. And though it's a relatively extreme example, it illustrates how far genuine love for neighbor is willing to go. When we understand the story of the Good Samaritan, not as an extraordinary act of kindness but as an application of normal, neighborly love in extraordinary circumstances, we're on the right track. But it still won't hit us as it should if we demonize the priest and Levite. When we view them as self-absorbed villains, it's much easier to escape conviction. When we see them as normal, busy, distracted people, the story hits much closer to home.