The story of the Good Samaritan is a familiar one. Found in Luke 10:25-37 it has found its way into popular culture and even our laws. While we have been conditioned to identify with the Good Samaritan, though the text never calls him that, have we ever considered identifying with man beaten, stripped, and left half dead in the ditch?
Jesus tells this story on the occasion of a lawyer inquiring just who his neighbor is. While the lawyer is seeking to place limits on the definition of neighbor, this person and not that person, the parable essentially says everyone is your neighbor. But it says something more than that. More than inviting the lawyer to emulate the Samaritan in compassionate mercy towards the man left for dead in the ditch, Jesus’ question to the lawyer asks him to identify with the man lying on the roadside helpless and half dead.
Jews and Samaritans were ardent enemies as both claimed exclusive ancestry to Abraham. Speaking to the Jewish lawyer about the Jewish man who fell into the hands of robbers, Jesus makes the Samaritan the surprising hero because he is recognized as neighbor by the man stripped and robbed on the dangerous Jericho road.
We have traditionally been taught that the moral of the parable is to be kind and do good things for those in need even if we don’t know them. Though, it is hard to imagine Jesus getting into trouble and ultimately being crucified for such a message.
However, when you ask the powerful to see the world from the vantage point of the victims, beaten, stripped, and left half dead in a ditch, that will stir up trouble. A message like that challenges worldviews, perceptions, and prejudices. A message like that is threatening to those in power and so will need to be silenced.
The March For Our Lives movement is shining a light on some of the Jericho roads in our world today where far too many have been massacred by assault weapons.
The dangerous Jericho roads today are now the streets between school and home where too many black kids in places like Chicago live in fear of making it home, because so many have not.
The dangerous Jericho roads today are in school hallways where too many shooters have massacred too many students and their teachers.
The dangerous Jericho roads today run though places of worship, concert venues, movie theaters, night clubs, and even military bases.
The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who organized the March For Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. that lead to over 800 other marches all across the country and on every continent are asking the powerful political leaders today the same thing that Jesus asked of the lawyer. These students and young people all across the country are demanding that those in power see the issue of gun violence and the epidemic of mass shootings from the perspective of those who have huddled in closets in fear of their lives and grieved the loss of family and friend who have been left dead on the dangerous Jericho roads in our communities, schools, churches, night clubs, and movie theaters.
Those crying out for their lives don’t have the privilege of discrimination. Even one’s enemy can become neighbor for it no longer matters from whom help comes, so long as it does. This is the truth of the March For Our Lives movement.
The March For Our Lives Movement is a plea for the powerful policy makers to have empathy with students from schools across the country who no longer feel safe in their classrooms and all who suffer the horrible trauma of gun violence. To the inaction that has defined their whole lives they are saying, enough is enough.
Will our Representative and Senators take a moment to imagine the world form the perspective of a seven-year-old traumatized by gun violence and the disruption to learning caused by mass shooting drills?
Will our Congressional leaders imagine the fear of a high school student who doesn’t feel safe in their English, math, or science class because there are too many assault style weapons on our streets and they are too easy to acquire?
Will our policy makers consider the fear black youth live every day as they go home from school when addressing gun violence in our country?
From the ditches of desperation, the youth from Columbine to Newtown to Parkland are pleading for their lives. From the streets of Chicago and Baltimore kids are desperate not to live in fear of being gunned down walking home from school. Nevertheless, their anger is hopeful, their passion indefatigable, and their resilience strong. And if their desperate pleas for change should fall on deaf ears, they will not be stopped. Their cries for change through tears and anger, hope and determination will only become stronger.
While the Samaritan was the surprising character to show mercy to the man left for dead in the ditch, the real twist came when Jesus asked the lawyer to lay aside his privilege and see the world though the beaten and bruised eyes of a man desperate to save his life. Such a view overcomes prejudice to see neighbor in whomever offers compassionate mercy.
The passionate pleas of all the youth who have sparked the March For Our Lives movement are rising up from the dangerous Jericho roads in our world today. They are screaming for help. Who will be their surprising and unexpected neighbor? Who will bring them the policy change that will make all our roads safer?