Sharing God’s Radical Love for All: The Good Samaritan Story
What does it mean to ‘share God’s radical love for all’? As the Good Samaritan Church, we draw our understanding of who God is and our role as God’s people from the Good Samaritan Story in Luke 10: 29-37, and from the Great Commandment, which appears in Luke 10:25-28 (and Deuteronomy 6), and which Jesus reaffirms as a proper “summary of the law” (Luke 10:28). As we try to “live into” the commandment and this story, it seems clear to us that God’s love is for all, even for injured travelers and “Samaritans”, that this love is radical in that it far exceeds our human imagination of what love can do, and that it can be shared when we show up for others as, in the story, the Samaritan showed up for the traveler. Please read on to learn a little more about this remarkable scripture.
The Great Commandment
While the Good Samaritan story is familiar to many, we don’t always remember the context in which Jesus told it. In Luke 10, verses 25-28, we meet a lawyer starting a conversation with Jesus.
25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
(If you noticed that Jesus asked the lawyer a question about scripture, then you might wonder if the lawyer just “made this up”. In fact, the lawyer did in fact quote from scripture – check out Deuteronomy 6: 4-10.)
Do we ever love anything with all our soul, all our strength and all our mind? To be honest, most of us don’t, and when we do, we are often in love with ourselves or some worldly passion or possession. Jesus instructs that for us to truly live, we must love in radical and God-sized ways. Understanding what this means, or starting to incorporate this commandment in our lives is a big change – “repentance”. For most of us, making big changes is challenging!
Why should we take this challenge seriously? Why focus on this particular Bible verse? First, the “love commandment” itself has not changed. It appears in a similar position of prominence in the many verses including the following:
Deuteronomy 6, introducing a series of commandments parallel to the Ten Commandments in chapter 5.
Jesus sums up its importance simply in Matthew 22:40, saying “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In Luke 10:28, Jesus simply says “do this and you will live”.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the centrality of love is driven home.
In so many ways, we are invited in scripture to live into love.
Who is my Neighbor?
29 But wanting to justify himself, [the lawyer] asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
When God asks us to refocus our lives around love, it is a reasonable and natural response to think “There’s no way I can love everyone, whom do I really have to love and take care of?”, and this practical reality is part of the lawyer’s question. However, there is also a strong human tendency to ask “How much do I really have to do?”. If you have ever taken the time to figure out “what score you needed on a test” to get a grade you wanted, you are familiar with this kind of thinking. But in our walk with God, this kind of thinking simply doesn’t work! That is why this page is closer to a Bible study than a list of things we believe. What we believe matters, but at Good Samaritan Church, we want to shift our vision from rules to love. We believe that love is central to God’s action in the world, that this love is expressed through abundant grace, and that our collective and individual faith response arises from recognizing our own and our neighbor’s belovedness to God.
The Good Samaritan
So, how did Jesus respond to the lawyer’s request for a rule? How is this story, about one particular person who went out of his way to be a neighbor, an important clue to understanding the Great Commandment? How does it answer the question “who is my neighbor?”‘
30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a lawyer/judge was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But the Outsider while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Putting Love into Action
The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us first by how particular the story is. It is not a rule, but an example of someone adapting the great commandment to a situation that came as a complete surprise to them – finding an injured traveler on the side of the road. Perhaps we should also help injured travelers, but that is not the main message. A more central message is the questions that Jesus seems to invite us to ponder … “what particular situation are you in?”, and “who is around you who needs help, but is getting ignored?”
A second learning we can readily take from this story is that “right belief” (also called “orthodoxy”) is secondary, not central, to following Jesus. This comes from the identity of the Samaritan and the Levite. In Jesus’s time Samaritans were shunned by Jews specifically for having a very serious “wrong belief”, and Levites would be expected to perfectly live out scriptural laws, so having the “wrong believer” be the person living out God’s commandment is a pretty loud message. (And of course, the lawyer that passed by is probably a gentle rebuke to the lawyer who asked the question.)
There are many more lessons we can take from the Good Samaritan story, and from the rest of the Gospel and scripture. It is called “the living word” for a reason! How are you trying to be more loving in your life? Would reading scripture with friends help? We would love to start a conversation.
Our Response to God’s Call
The story of the Good Samaritan beckons us to reach out beyond our own comfort-zone to those who need our care and advocacy. We look to our broader community to find where we can show up and how we can serve. At times, our church becomes the hands of God through small groups and ministries.
Feeding the Hungry
Since 2022, Good Samaritan UMC has hosted, and increasingly partnered with “Feed My Sheep”, which for the last __ years has delivered hot soup and meals to unhoused folks living in Silicon Valley. Three Saturday’s a month, over three hundred hot meals are prepared in our kitchen and fellowship hall and delivered to those in need.
Since the mid 1990’s, we have provided English Language classes to thousands of non-native speakers as well as helped over 1,500 permanent residents successfully prepare for American Citizenship. Some of these people have become part of our community and continue to share their gifts and talents. In our efforts to bless these new residents, we have been blessed by gratitude, friendship, and love. Newcomers continue to relocate to the Bay Area in large numbers from many different states, countries, and cultures seeking to establish new homes, care for families, and belonging to their new neighborhoods in meaningful ways. Good Samaritan continues to invite all people into our community to engage and serve in ways that empower everyone.
These are some of the ways we answer God’s call. We continue to prayerfully consider how to reach out to a world in need of God’s love by using the gifts and talents of our community. Won’t you help us discover how we can continue to be God’s miracle in someone’s life?
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” ― Frederick Buechner
Founded in 1958, the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church began as an Evangelical United Brethren (EUB) Church that met at the De Oro Club in Cupertino and shortly after that, established our church at its present location. In 1968 we became a United Methodist Church. We are a part of the El Camino Real District and participate actively in our California Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church.