Samaritan Lives Matter

Some people object to the phrase, “Black Lives Matter” and prefer saying, “All Lives Matter.” I am perfectly okay with saying, “Black Lives Matter”, especially now as a way to put a spotlight on prejudices, and recognizing that this issue, and seeking how we can all be better, means a lot to our Black brothers and sisters who have faced discrimination. (I cannot support the actual BLM organization since I cannot support any candidate, leader or group when they are pro-abortion.) We also need to realize that when we do say, “All Lives Matter”, we are including terrorists, pedophiles, rapists, serial killers, etc., though The Creator, who made us all in His image, desires that they, like each one of us, repent and follow Jesus.

Jesus did not shy away from focusing on some of the significant prejudices of the time when He walked on this earth. One of issues He confronted was the awful way the minority Samaritan people were treated. There was a long history of bitterness between the Jews and the Samaritans. For the Jews, the Samaritans were the lowest of the low. I will not go into the history of why this was so, other than to say that the Samaritans accepted pagan customs (idolaters), intermarried with pagans (half-breeds), built their own temple instead of recognizing the one in Jerusalem (unclean), sided with those fighting the Jews in the intertestamental period (blood enemies), tried to get the Jews in trouble with the Romans (spies/traitors), and rejected many of the teachings and writings of the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem (heretics).

By the time Jesus appeared on earth, this animosity was at a peak. As a result, Jesus, and eventually those filled with His Spirit, revealed the sinfulness of this hatred. This ungodly attitude is very clear in John 8:47-48: “He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”  There was not a worse insult of someone than to call them a Samaritan, which for the Jews was as bad as being demon possessed. (It should be noted that God warned the Israelites not to associate closely with Gentiles so as to not fall into their pagan ways, but the Old Testament also has many verses which talk of His love for non-Jews and how the Jews were to be a light to them. The Jews at Jesus’ time went way overboard with the avoidance, and did many things the opposite of being a light to them.)

The most well-known example of Jesus putting a spotlight on this issue, making sure they knew that Samaritan lives matter to God, is the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. Two of the most significant classes of people in the culture, a priest and a Levite (temple assistant), refused to help the injured man on the side of the road. The hero of this parable was the “hated” Samaritan, who was the only one to show love and compassion, the only good neighbor. It is hard for us to realize how radical this parable was at that time, making the Samaritan the wonderful example and shaming the priest and the Levite.

Screenshot_2020-06-22 NT118 Good Samaritan

Another example is the woman at the well. Here Jesus breaks two significant cultural taboos. He speaks not only to a Samaritan, but to a woman. John 4:27 says: Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” In 4:9 the woman herself expresses this: The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) This passage also reveals the issue about the two temples, in John 4:20: “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”  Later on the woman returns to her Samaritan village and tells them all about Jesus. Vs. 40-41 report: “When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe.” Jesus staying with them for two days is another cultural bomb since “good” Jews would not have any associations with a Samaritan, let alone stay in their village (and eat with them) for two days!

Luke 17 recounts yet another scene where a Samaritan person is praised. Ten lepers come to Jesus, stand far off, and ask Him to heal them. He tells them to go and show themselves to a priest, and as they are going, they are all healed. But only one comes back to thank him. Both Jesus and Luke makes sure everyone knows that the only one to show gratitude is a Samaritan! 17:16-19: He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Before they received the Holy Spirit, the disciples, even after seeing these things, still held deep seated animosity toward the Samaritans, and were ready to burn them all up when they refused to welcome them when they sought a place to stay one night. Luke 9:52-55: He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. This scene also reveals that the Samaritans themselves were upset that Jesus was going to the temple in Jerusalem, and not to their temple.

Finally, after His death and resurrection, Jesus sends His disciples out to proclaim to all the world about Him and what He has done and the salvation He offers. Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He specifically mentions Samaria. So preach to the people you know (Jerusalem), to the people “like you” within your local area (Judea), across racial and prejudicial boundaries (Samaria, as I have taught and shown you), and then you will be ready to serve and love any type of people in all the world.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, the disciples and other followers begin preaching Jesus, first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, and after they dillydallied too much, persecution sent them out toward Samaria and the rest of the known world. Acts 8 highlights Philip’s journey to preach in Samaria, how many came to believe, and then how Peter and John came, helped the new believers receive the Holy Spirit and rejoiced with them.

Though not a Samaritan, Acts 10 and the first part of 11 highlight that even after receiving the Holy Spirit, breaking through their prejudices was a process. God wanted a Gentile Roman general to hear His word, and God had to show Peter an earth-shattering vision to get him to go to the house of an “unclean” Gentile. Finally after this out-of-body experience, Peter went and preached to this man and his family, and Peter’s worldview was blown apart again when these Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. But afterwards, he got roundly criticized, in 11:2-3: But when Peter arrived back in Jerusalem, the Jewish believers criticized him. “You entered the home of Gentiles and even ate with them!” they said.  Peter recounted all that God had showed him, and in 11:17-18 he says: “And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”  When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” Prejudices are hard to break, and God had to do some significant work in the hearts of the believers to show them His love for all types of people.

Later on, at a big meeting to talk about this issue, Peter speaks with great power and eloquence about this new worldview all the Jewish believers needed to have. Acts 15:7-11: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

It is also worth stating that slavery can never be justified by anything in the Bible. I will focus a moment on the New Testament teaching since most of us are Gentiles and so it speaks directly to us as Gentiles. In the case of the Romans, specifically the upper class, it was very common for them to have slaves. Some of the lower class people sold themselves into slavery as a way to support themselves and their families. People with full Roman citizenship were usually not forced into slavery. However non-citizens and those brought back as captives from other nations had little to no rights, and so could freely be made slaves, no matter what their station in life was before the Romans defeated their people. So some super rich, high ranking people of other nations became lowly slaves for the Romans. While some were treated fairly well, many others were treated very badly, including being raped by their masters, with man on boy being one of the most common immoral acts. Please note that race did not have anything to do with who was a Roman slave, If you did not have official Roman citizenship, you could be forced to be a slave.

Theoretically, Paul could have proclaimed, “Release all your slaves!”, but who would have listened? Most of the places he went, he was thrown in jail for preaching about this “other” king, Jesus, which was insurrection to those who recognized Cesar as the only ruler. What Paul was able to do was give to godly advice to those who were slaves. Paul spent a lot of time in prison, and he was able to find the positive in that, stating from prison in Philippians 1:12-13 “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” He also proclaimed in 1 Cor. 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” So this is what he teaches to those who are slaves. Remember that Jesus is your true Master, but as long as you live as slaves, do the best as you can to work hard for this earthly master so as to be a witness to them and your fellow slaves.  He also states that if you can become free, do it. 1 Cor 7:21-23:  “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.”

He also commands those who are masters to treat those who serve them with respect and kindness. When that was the case, most slaves would have preferred to stay since it was a good way to provide for them and their families. Paul’s advise to Philemon is very applicable to this. A slave ran away from Philemon, who seems to be a friend of Paul. This slave, through the ministry of Paul, became a Jesus follower, and decided to go back to Philemon. In the book of Philemon Paul tells how Onesimus has become a believer and desires to go back to Philemon’s house. Paul urges Philemon to receive him back, and to treat him like family, like a fellow believer in Jesus. In this case Onesimus wants to keep living with Philemon, and Paul wants to make sure he will be treated equally.

In conclusion, let me say that not only the Bible speaks of these things, but also the Declaration of Independence declares that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our country has too many times fallen far short of these wonderful words. The Bible states clearly that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all equal in the sight of God, created in His image, and may He help us as we rid ourselves of biases, prejudices and whatever wrong things we have thought and/or been taught, and have our worldview rocked, if it needs to be rocked, so that we see all people through His eyes.

Note: Part of the inspiration to study the “Samaritan” issue more in depth came from Pastor Eric Young, who included Jesus’ teachings regarding discrimination against the Samaritans in a sermon at Discovery Church Tucson.