Modern-Day Good Samaritans

By Friday, September 2, 2016

I have just returned from a trip of a lifetime to Poland, Israel and Jordan with The Philos Project: The Philos Leadership Institute 2016. On this trip, we saw and interacted with many amazing efforts and organizations that are helping Middle Eastern people who are in desperate need. For me, of the most significant moments of the trip was when we went to the Israeli/Syrian border and we could hear artillery fire; we knew people were in need of help, so we prayed. At the moment, that was all we could do – but I wanted to do so much more.

The helpless feeling of observing what was happening in Syria reminded me of the Good Samaritan parable in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus told the story of the man traveling to Jericho, who was attacked and beaten by robbers. A priest and a Levite both saw the man and chose to walk by, but it was a Samaritan – a Jewish-Gentile outcast – who stopped to help the man.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus showed us how to fulfill the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus revealed that the Good Samaritan did three things. First, he stopped to help the bleeding and beaten man. He met his immediate need. Second, the Samaritan took the man to an inn, and paid the innkeeper to take good care of the man while he was gone. The Samaritan helped the man in his intermediate need. Third, the Samaritan promised that he was coming back for the man. It is clear that the Good Samaritan didn’t just help the man initially, but was willing to become intricately involved to the point of relationship so the man could again be healed, restored and empowered.

I saw several organizations that were trying to fulfill this biblical commandment, and they were doing an exceptional job. I can see various phases of humanitarian help that are in line with these three principles of immediate help, intermediate help and empowerment.

First, we were privileged to go to the Galilee Medical Center to see an example of immediate help. This incredible hospital in Galilee has become known for treating Syrian war victims, as well as being an international center for excellence and pioneerism in medical facilities.

We heard from the staff members and saw their commitment to treat whoever comes in the facility, whether they are Israeli, Syrian, Jewish, Muslim, Druze or Christian. Once a person comes into the facility, he or she is simply a patient, and is treated according to condition. We also heard from a Syrian war victim who expressed his gratefulness to the center and the people of Israel. This man had been told that Israelis were his enemy for his entire life, and yet he experienced the staff members’ doing everything in their power to treat his wounds and help him recover.

Pictured is a Syrian refugee boy minutes after his birth. He is one of thousands of babies born in Jordan’s Zaatari camp. Photo credit: EU/ECHO/Peter Biro.

Second, we visited Zaatari Syrian Refugee Camp in Mafraq, Jordan to see an example of intermediate help. This camp is jointly run by the United Nations and the Jordanian government. We had the opportunity to visit with the officials and see the well-organized camp, which holds more than 80,000 refugees. The leaders expressed their concern of continuous civil war in Syria. When they began the camp four years before, they had assumed it would be a temporary situation. Clearly, with the continuation of the war, they are needing to consider how to sustain this effort and make decisions regarding the refugees.

Third, for an example of empowerment, we visited the Industrial Park in Nazareth. This is a model of Jewish-Arab cooperation and a perfect example of empowerment that causes flourishing. It is a center for vocational and entrepreneurial training. With firms such as Alpha-Omega, which is now one of the leaders in technology for brain surgery, the park is clearly making a local and global impact. The industrial park fosters cooperation and relationship between Jews, Muslims and Druze. It has been a major influence in the community economically and relationally, and is causing the predominantly Arab community of Nazareth to thrive and flourish.

As Christians, we have not always been good neighbors to the world – particularly to those in the Middle East – so it is vitally important to Christian organizations and non-government organizations that we offer help as the Good Samaritan did. We need to discern where to help, how to help well, and whether the need is immediate, intermediate or empowerment.

Above all, when I look at the Good Samaritan story, I see my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – the perfect Jewish man who fulfilled all of the requirements of the law, yet who also had Moabite and Canaanite ancestry through Ruth and Rahab. Jesus is our mixed-race Savior who sees us in our sins broken and beaten and stops along the path to save us.

The Levite and priest remind me of religion that cannot stop to help. Religion can tell us what required, but it cannot rescue or redeem us or restore us back to the people we were created to be; only Jesus does that. Jesus not only saves us, he takes us to the inn, to the house of God, where we can recover and become whole as we engage with the community of believers.

Finally, as the Good Samaritan vowed to return for the hurt man, so Jesus is returning for us. It is our promise – the hope of glory. God has not left us orphans. He is returning for a radiant bride, the body of Christ.

As we look to Jesus who saves us, restores us and places us on the path toward our purpose, we too can help others who are in immediate need of care, by creating initiatives for people to recover and be restored, and by coming alongside others in relationship and empowering them to step into their God-given gifts and potential.