And behold, a congressman stood up to challenge Jesus to see if his teaching could hold up in the real world. So he asked him, “Reverend Doctor, what’s your definition of a morally upright person that’s good in the eyes of God?” Jesus turned the question around on him and said, “You know your Bible, what does it say?” The Congressman, grateful for a childhood spent in Sunday School, easily answered “To love God with all you have and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus, somewhat coyly replied “You've got it, that's the requirement for being good enough before God.”
The Congressman, being himself a politician and used to giving and hearing clever answers that avoided the question, decided to try again. He was determined to show that his pragmatic approach to ethics was superior to Jesus’ pie-in-the-sky approach (all that business about non-retaliation and love of enemies - he couldn’t literally mean that, could he?). So he doubled down and asked Jesus “Which neighbors am I responsible to love, then?” Instead of answering the question, Jesus told this story:
“An American was driving from El Paso to Albuquerque and while stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, inadvertently witnessed members of a drug cartel carry out a transaction for a trunk full of cocaine. They saw him, grabbed him, drove him a few miles from the gas station, savagely beat him and left him for dead by the side of the road. A few hours went by and an ICE agent drove by on patrol and saw the man but didn’t want to be distracted from his assigned section of the border he was monitoring and so didn’t stop to help. As the sun started to set, a local sheriff’s deputy passed by, but seeing the brutal nature of the beating, he feared that it was the cartel and he too decided not to involve himself. Finally, towards midnight a Honduran family came by in a pickup truck. Hours earlier they had sneaked across the border into the country and were hiding under blankets in the bed of a pickup truck driven by a friend who had been living in the country undocumented for the past year. Their headlights fell on the man’s crumpled form as they rounded the curve in the road where he lay. When the driver stopped, he assured his friends that they were not in trouble and explained what he saw. Without hesitation, the father jumped out of the bed of the truck and carried the man, placing him in the pickup’s bed. Using the truck’s first aid kit, he treated the man’s injuries. Now there was not enough room in the bed of the truck for all of them, so he rode alongside his friend in the cab, despite his risk of being seen. They drove to a 24 hour payday advance place where the friend obtained a loan which they used to get the man a room at a motel as well as leaving some cash with the desk clerk against any possible expenses when the paramedics arrived to take him to the ER.”
When Jesus had finished the story, he asked the congressman, “Which of the people proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the cartel?” The Congressman, barely able to make eye contact with Jesus, mumbled almost under his breath “The one who helped him.” Jesus just looked at him and said “Do that.”
Marcus Little is the Senior Pastor of Berean Baptist Church. This blog is a place where he can share his thoughts and reflections on how Scripture intersects with life, work, community, culture and the events of our times.