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The Good Samaritan Through the Lens of 2020

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by Abbie Thompson

When Youthfront staff chose the 2020 Camp theme, we had no idea how relevant it would be by summer. Each year, our team carefully selects a Biblical theme and story for camp that will become the focus of all our curriculum – our camp gatherings, activities, spiritual formation times. 
Last fall, we decided that the 2020 camp curriculum would focus on the parable of The Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25-37. The content created for middle school sessions focuses on the teacher of the law’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” and how Jesus reframes the question and instead answers, “How can I be a neighbor?” For our kids camp (grades 3-5) sessions, the content explores having open eyes, open hearts, and open hands to be neighbors and “go and do likewise” to those around us. 
As Youthfront staff brainstormed camp themes last fall, we all felt that the parable of The Good Samaritan was relevant. We recognized the current global disunity and how there seems to be new divisions daily over what’s good/bad, who’s in/out, what’s right/wrong. We also recognized that we could learn how to better put aside these divisions, as the Samaritan does, and to serve those with whom we come in contact. This was our thought process in the fall. 
As our team dug deeper into the parable, we uncovered new truths. Arguably, the most important discovery was noticing the shift of the teacher of the law’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” This question is prompting Jesus to justify the teacher. The teacher of the law wants to draw lines in the sand between his neighbors and everyone else. The application of this parable has spread farther than we could have imagined.
Today, we find ourselves in a similar situation as the teacher of the law. Before COVID-19, you might have thought you were a good neighbor. Before the tragic death of George Floyd and the dialogue of social injustice that has resulted from it, you might have thought you loved your neighbor as yourself. Now, you are likely rethinking how you can be neighborly or what that truly means. The pandemic and cultural dialogue is forcing a restructuring of our priorities and perspectives. In this restructuring, Jesus is one step ahead of us. 
The hero of the parable is the Samaritan. It was the Samaritan who stopped and helped an injured man he came upon on the side of the road. The Samaritan took the injured man to an inn and paid for the man’s recovery. On the surface, we could look at this as a “faith restored in humanity” sort of story. Yet, there is more to the Samaritan’s actions: They were risky and required personal sacrifice. As the Samaritan acted selflessly, we can do the same.
This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but this is how Jesus calls Christians to live. To live Christ-like requires sacrifice, and that extends to the idea of being a good neighbor. 
On one hand, the parable of The Good Samaritan shows us that being a good neighbor is simple: To be like Jesus is to be a good neighbor. On the other hand, as Christians, we know that being like Jesus is an impossible task. Yet, that is the standard that we are called to strive toward every day. To answer the parable’s question of “how can I  be a neighbor,” we need only ask ourselves the tried and true question of, “What would Jesus do?” I believe that the answer to this question is to act in love. This means that you can do any and all that you feel would be the most loving in a specific situation.
What qualifies as “the most loving” during the pandemic is fundamentally different from pre-coronavirus. In these past few months, being a good neighbor has looked like canceling travel plans, ceasing leisurely strolls around Target aisles, and not embracing friends that you encounter to ensure six feet of distance. Being a good neighbor might mean running errands for your elderly neighbors or packing meals for families who are experiencing financial hardship.
“The most loving” thing in the face of social injustice might be speaking up or standing alongside your black neighbors in peaceful protest. It might mean changing where you shop or giving to support social justice initiatives. Or “the most loving” thing might just be sitting and listening to another person’s perspective or taking the time to better understand the experience of someone of a different race than your own. These are sacrifices that are loving and are for the greater good of people.
Of course, we are not going to act in love every moment of every day. In the times we fall short of this goal, we can give ourselves grace and know that Jesus is gracious toward us as well. In the end, if you do one thing after reading this post, I hope it is that you read (or re-read) the parable of The Good Samaritan. Try shifting the filter through which you are reading from “Who is my neighbor?” to “How can I be a neighbor?” and see what things you discover for yourself.

Bio:

Abbie Thompson

Abbie Thompson

Abbie Thompson, Program Coordinator at Youthfront Camp Westhas been on full-time staff at Youthfront since 2018. Previously, she served two summers on Summer Staff at Youthfront Camp West. 

Abbie has a degree in Applied Mathematics, Bioinformatics from the University of Tulsa. 

In her free time, you can find Abbie on the move. She enjoys being outside and going on walks around Camp West. Additionally, she loves to spend her evenings with her husband, playing board or video games or watching movies. Abbie is married to Andrew Thompson, who is Youthfront’s Camp Facilities Manager at Camp West.

 

 

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