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The Good Samaritan

Updated: Jul 15, 2019

Lesson: Luke 10:25-37

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar even to people who know little else about the Bible. An expert in the law approaches Jesus, asking: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The lawyer is saying, “Show me the path to the life of God.”

Jesus knows the man is a lawyer so he asks, “What’s written in the Law?” The man gives Jesus an A+ answer, quoting Deuteronomy and Leviticus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;[1] and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[2]

Jesus congratulates him on giving the correct answer. “Do this, and you will live,” he says. But the man isn’t satisfied. He wants specifics. “Who is my neighbor?” he asks. Which, when you think about it, is the same thing as asking, “Who is not my neighbor?” He wants to know where he has to draw the line. I mean, there have to be lines, right? Could Jesus really mean, “Love everybody?”

Jesus answers with the familiar story. It’s an incredibly timely story, poignantly echoed in a recent New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristoff. Kristoff tells the story of Teresa Todd. “The path to [her] arrest,” writes Kristoff, “began when three desperate Central American migrants waved frantically at her car on a Texas highway one night in February.” At least one other car had hurtled by, afraid to stop. But for Todd, compassion overrode any fear. “I’m a mom,” explained Todd, who has two sons, ages 15 and 17. “And I see a young man who looked the same age and size as my younger son. And if my son was by the side of the road, I would want someone to help.”

Todd, a single mom who works as a lawyer for a city and county in West Texas, found three siblings: two brothers aged 20 and 22 and their sister, Esmeralda, 18. To escape violence, they fled their native El Salvador years ago, and more recently, Guatemala, where friends were murdered and a gang leader wanted to make Esmeralda his “girlfriend.” Esmeralda was suffering from starvation, dehydration and a potentially fatal syndrome with a long unpronounceable name that can lead to kidney failure.[3] Seeing that Esmeralda was very sick, Todd invited the migrants into her car to warm up, and she began frantically texting friends (including one who is a lawyer for the Border Patrol) for advice about getting Esmeralda medical attention.

A sheriff’s deputy pulled up behind Todd’s car, lights flashing, and a Border Patrol officer arrived shortly afterward. The officers detained Todd for three hours, confiscating her possessions and keeping her in a holding cell. By stopping to help a stranger, Todd may have saved a life — but this also got her arrested. “It was totally surreal,” Todd recalled. “Especially for doing what my parents taught me was right, and what I learned in church was right, which was helping people. So finding myself in a holding cell for that, it was hard to wrap my head around.”

Esmeralda was hospitalized for four days, and she and her siblings are now in ICE custody. Todd has not been charged with a crime so far, but the authorities seem to have been considering a federal indictment. Kristoff reached out to federal and local officials for comment; they did not respond. Todd told Kristoff that she has no regrets. “I think it’s the right thing to help those in need,” she explained. “That’s what I learned from my parents. That’s what I learned in church.”