Several times this week I have found myself contemplating the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan who stops to help the beaten man on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:25-37). The Jericho road, connecting Jerusalem and Jericho, is about 17 miles long and notoriously steep descending sharply 3,600 feet with lots of rocky valleys and passes. Until the fifth century it was called the red or bloody way.
This parable is often used as an example of how we are to show mercy and compassion to other people.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with being known as the ‘Good Samaritan’ but part of me wonders what it would be like if we took on board the quote from Desmond Tutu. “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”
In other words sometimes it would be more beneficial if alongside our ability to be compassionate we actually travelled further up the Jericho road looking at the root cause of the problem, asking the difficult questions and improving the safety of people travelling on the Jericho road.
Today’s contemporary Jericho road consists of Knife crime, loneliness, food poverty, racism and hate crime, people sleeping on the streets, human trafficking, debt, mental health, addiction, the list is endless. I wonder what it would like if we intentionally challenged some of the structures in our society?
Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars, needs restructuring.’
Fighting for justice takes time, courage, commitment and the ability to challenge political structures yet so often we are reluctant to get involved. As English statesman Edmund Burke (1729-1797) – said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Surely given all the problems in our society today doing nothing is not an option. We need to see the Jericho road not purely as a parable of charity but of transformation. As a Christian leader I certainly want to devote more of my time asking the difficult and challenging questions helping to bring about transformation in people’s lives rather than waiting for the victims to come along and then sticking a plaster on the wounds. Getting involved will mean dealing with broken relationships in our homes and families, combating loneliness, being inclusive, it may even make our neat little communities messy, complicated and at times painful but surely it will be well worth the journey.