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Transforming: The Church as Agent of Change in the Parable of the Good Samaritan

 

God’s Love Practices Justice

The graciousness of his act went beyond generosity to personal involvement and sacrifice.

As the story continues, we find the Samaritan practicing a gracious form of justice. The Old Testament defined justice in terms of God’s righteousness (Heb. tsedeqah). Applied to man, it demanded a right rule or standard of conduct; each person getting what is rightfully due him.8 What do those who walk in covenant relationship with God owe every person in need and distress? Is it not His compassionate love? When God’s righteous standards are violated through an act of injustice, justice requires an intervention that seeks correction.9 In this parable, the Samaritan intervenes to right a wrong done to a fellow human being and seeks to restore him. If the Law commanded the love of neighbor, then this Samaritan was giving his neighbor what he rightly deserved as one of God’s covenant people: loving and merciful intervention to correct an injustice. The graciousness of his act is seen in the cost of such intervention, which went beyond generosity to personal involvement and sacrifice.

 

Parabolic Conclusions

How does this parable instruct the church in becoming a transformational agent in society? The answer surely is coming into focus. In verse 36, Jesus inverts the question. It is not “Who is the neighbor I ought to love,” but “Who showed the love of God and demonstrated he was a neighbor to the stricken Jew?” From the parable, the character of God’s love is clear. It requires a compassionate heart, active benevolent action or intervention and sacrificial involvement. This kind of love is expressed by God’s covenant people toward all those who fall victim to sin in all forms of injustice, exploitation and oppression. It is due to all those in need of mercy.

The church that seeks to become a transformational agent in society must commit itself to a spiritual, social and even political engagement in the world in the name of the Lord.

The church that seeks to become a transformational agent in society must commit itself to a spiritual, social and even political engagement in the world in the name of the Lord. It must have the love of God as its motivation and bringing restoration and rectitude to a world broken and torn by sin as its goal. What better platform on which to stand and proclaim the gospel than one that models in the flesh the redemptive and compassionate love of God in Christ?

 

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Notes

1. Given the challenges and opposition Jesus faces from the religious leaders in Luke’s Gospel up to this point, it also possible that the question was offered in an attempt to expose some unorthodox teaching that could be condemned. See 4:28-30; 5:21, 30:6:2, 7-10; 7:29-30, 36-39; and especially all of chapter 11.

 

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2009

About the Author: James D. Hernando, Ph.D. (Drew University), is Professor of New Testament at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. He is author of Dictionary of Hermeneutics (Gospel Publishing House, 2005), the commentary on 2 Corinthians in the Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament (Zondervan, 1999), as well as numerous articles and papers. www.agts.edu/faculty/hernando.html

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