The Good Samaritan — A Disturbing Story

August 24, 2010

Photo by vonkale (license)

Familiarity breeds tame faith (and lame faith). Are you familiar with the parable of Jesus we call “The Good Samaritan”? Even if you can’t recall the story, you probably associate it with hospitals or “Good Samaritan laws.” Something about being nice to random people.

But Jesus isn’t telling a nice-guy story. His “parables” are stories he made up to teach something. Many of them are confusing, kind of like zen koans. Some, like the Good Samaritan, were disturbing to those who heard. (Do you know the one where he says, “Use money to make friends”?)

Plastic Jesus

Photo by teresia (license)

We’ve made Jesus’s teachings familiar, and so we’ve made them safe. Sanitized, plastic Jesus.

But Jesus is not safe. Grab a friend (or group of friends) and re-read a gospel. As you read, ask yourself: “Is it confusing? Is it disturbing?” If we are not being confused or disturbed, then we may be missing the real teaching.

Chad Estes leads us into confusing and disturbing territory by retelling the parable of the Good Samaritan. Go read his version of the story. (Leave a comment — tell him Jon Reid sent you!)

You may discover a wild, untamed Jesus… and then what will you do?

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

4 responses to The Good Samaritan — A Disturbing Story

  1. I read and commented on Chad’s site. My question for you is: Is “being disturbed” the only gauge of comprehending Jesus’ parables? Okay, so that was a rhetorical question. How about: do you consider “being disturbed” the most accurate gauge of comprehension? What are your rules for interpreting Jesus’ message?

  2. Hey Jon – Came over to look from Chad’s blog. Perhaps I’m too simple minded but the idea that stories made up to teach something should leave you disturbed and confused and if you aren’t confused after the teaching you’re not getting the point seems very odd to me. I can see being disturbed perhaps but only if the story clarifies the issue to the point where you think “wait a minute, maybe what I’ve always thought about this is wrong or I’m actually doing something that I really shouldn’t be” If that is the case then I would still call the result clarifying rather than confusing. Probably disturbing and clarifying.
    I guess I also don’t agree with your initial statement. Familiarity can breed complacency which is almost never good but that’s certainly not always what it breeds. I’m very familiar with many of the Bible stories and I think I have a reasonably good understanding of many of them also. That doesn’t mean that I don’t often get a new understanding from someone else’s perspective but I also don’t think that it makes my faith a lame faith.
    I don’t think that the good samaritan story is a “nice-guy” story, I think it uses that word picture to teach several lessons some of which are very difficult to accept because they are counter to human nature. I don’t find it confusing or necessarily disturbing but clarifying.

  3. Uh, no. “Being disturbed” is the secondary one. The primary one is “being confused.” 🙂
    The kingdom of God is upside-down, and parables help us “free your mind” (like Neo). They are not simple morals, like Aesop’s fables. Instead, I see them as an invitation to a conversation. (See Matthew 13:10 and onward)

  4. Kelvin, check out my reply to Matthew: I explain why I think it’s important that we find parables either confusing or disturbing. I mean, really, what do you do with the parable of the cheating manager?
    The problem with familiarity is that we so easily go into auto-pilot. How many times have you heard the same sermon? Information isn’t the point. The point is actively listening to the Holy Spirit, with whatever specific instructions he has for you at this time in your situation. Then part two, obeying what you heard (again, leaning on the Holy Spirit).