Finding Our Good Samaritans

Tirelessly, and with no reward in sight, they will still work to care for people. They come off as traitors, and fools. How could they love people with so much hate? How could they give their lives to people who would readily sacrifice it to murder innocents? “I don’t care how many lives he’s killed. So long as he’s here, he’s my patient.” “God taught us to love everyone. Even those who hurt us.” “We are equal before God. Everyone deserves a dignified life.”

We like to think of Valentine’s as a “comfortable” holiday. We see an image of ourselves together with someone special, sharing happy moments or just being there. Beyond this image, we could see families together, maybe eating out or at the malls for a family outing. Those that do not have that luxury, find it among friends, or officemates. The ones who devote to greater, more laborious forms of Love will celebrate it amidst their works of charity, whether in the community at large, or work with the poor.

Though, every now and then, we may suffer pain and exhaustion for the ones we love, still we find relief in love returned, or in the grateful smiles on their faces; or in the lives they would later lead inspired by our example. And we celebrate Valentine’s Day to enjoy these things, and take heart that it is all worth it. We commemorate this Love, and remind ourselves whom we do it all for.

So why, out there, there is still the lingering feeling of the absence of Love? Out there, beyond the comforts of our home and our community, there is so much pain and hurt not for the sake of love, but its opposite. They call it “the real world,” where people don’t reward kindness with kindness, and “no good deed goes unpunished.” The incredible thing of it is, Christ called us to go there and extend our Love.

“Love your enemies.”

It is so easy to give our assent, amidst the sermons of the priests, and our teachers. They tell us to find our personal enemies, whether they be our neighbors, our classmates, the friends we hurt, the people who we hurt or who hurt us, or even the family members we’ve become estranged to. And we are hard-pressed to reach out, maybe out of pride, or fear of getting hurt, as we most certainly would be. Conciliation is never easy, and sometimes takes the work of a lifetime.

And we could still find something in common with these “personal enemies”. After all, they were friends, neighbors, or members of the community. We could always look for a common cause. We could also look to God to help us, and pray to smoothen out the misunderstandings. It is a labor of love, so you would say.

Out there, it is not so easy. In the midst of their scorn, you might find it hard to look for a common cause. You might feel fatigued over the unreasonableness of their actions, despite your best, and Christian, intentions. They will spit at you, they will revile you, and they will turn you out. That is if you’re lucky. Where is there, you may ask? There, God commands, to the lands of hate.

Let me tell you a story. We hear the parable of the “Good Samaritan” everyday, about how three men pass by a stranger, and only one of them comes to help. We like to think that this Christian story is just about acts of charity that seek no reward. But we keep forgetting an essential detail in that story—Samaritans were mortal enemies of the Jews at that time. Since we never experienced life back then, we find it hard to identify. So, now, we give it a modern twist:

A jihadist, who was notorious for the slaughter of so many people, found himself half-dead on the side of the road. The bombs that he had made exploded prematurely. This was a rarely–used road, as a larger highway had been built a few years before, to the distant south. So here he was, almost dark, looking out and wishing for death.

In come the holy man, and the scholar. It doesn’t matter what sequence they come—they could be in that place for different purposes: the holy man to teach the lessons of love, and tolerance (he could be a priest, a preacher, an imam), and the scholar could be a lawyer, a government official, or—more appropriately—an intellectual.

Now we come first to the intellectual. He knows what is right. He has been taught these lessons so long ago, in schools and in the church. But he is apprehensive. “I should help him. But he’s a killer. His death would be poetic justice, wouldn’t it?” Savoring in the irony, while debating between the precepts of good and evil, he will walk away, lost in thought. The holy man will come, and see the injured man. His moral conflict would be different: “I know we should love one another, but this man is a murderer. If I help him, he would only kill more people. Out of my good conscience, I can’t let him do that.” So he leaves.

It is already dark. The intellectual passed him, thought what he needed to do, but faltered in his actions, and walked away. The holy man saw him, and felt “morally obligated” not to help him (one death can save millions, he could reason). Finally, we come to the third man. In the Bible it said that he was a Samaritan, gazing down on a half-dead Jew. To make this message more acute, we reveal the man through his thoughts:

“This is the man who killed my daughter.”

He stood before him, the latter at his mercy, and gasping the last breaths of life. There was a stone by the road. A large stone. It was crude, but he could use it to club the man to death. He also saw a rifle, and some pieces of dynamite. Knives. This half-dead killer carried the weapons that could very well seal his fate. And here was one of his victims.

The man stood there, like a cold thing. He clenched his fists, and breathed deeply. Then, without a word, he carried him to his car, and drove him to a hospital. And not only did he shout to the shocked orderlies, doctors and nurses to give this man help—he also offered his medical insurance to pay for this man’s expenses. He waited long enough to know how the man was doing. Then he left.

If you would ask him why, what would you picture him saying? Maybe “I’m better than him.” Or, “I didn’t know what I was thinking at that time… I should have let him die.” He probably thought about this, in that one instant.

And what if he said this, “I love my daughter very much. I could have killed him, but she wouldn’t want me to.” Pressed why, when the man could very well kill again: “He could, but I won’t.”

Heroics like this rarely get an audience in our times. We only see this kind of kindness (and a foolish one, we would say) in cheesy Hollywood movies, where the hero always acts like the benevolent man. You won’t find it among many Americans, who might be divided about the war in Iraq, but would most certainly congregate to lynch any one of them. You won’t find it among Israelis, or Russians, or others who have fallen victim to their cruelty, and who realize that brutality can only be met by brutality. You might not even think of it with most of us Christians, though we nod and agree; when it came to it, we would probably be thinking in the lines of either the intellectual, or the holy man.

But there are people who selflessly dedicate themselves to these lands of hate, without distinguishing enemy from foe. The missionaries in Africa, for example, will be subjected to all kinds of punishment by militia men, or cruel dictators, and see their Christian communities dispersed. But they will utter a few prayers, and get back to rebuilding their work. Doctors and nurses from the UN can be found tirelessly watching over refugees, militant or otherwise, caring only that they live. Advocates of human rights, whether lawyers, paralegals, or activists, who condemn the rebels for their atrocities, and condemn the legitimate State for their atrocities.

Tirelessly, and with no reward in sight, they will still work to care for people. They come off as traitors, and fools. How could they love people with so much hate? How could they give their lives to people who would readily sacrifice it to murder innocents? “I don’t care how many lives he’s killed. So long as he’s here, he’s my patient.” “God taught us to love everyone. Even those who hurt us.” “We are equal before God. Everyone deserves a dignified life.”

They will face extremists who treat them as objects of scorn, and even disgust. Dialogue, compromise, and conciliation would be anathema to them. They built in their hatred as the center of their ideology. And in the face of Love, they will fight back, and inflict so much pain until that face turns into one that they could understand: hatred.

No, you can’t erase generations of hatred in a day. And no, you probably won’t see your efforts to change them come to fruition in your lifetime. Ironically, Osama bin Laden said it best: “We are not afraid of Death. They love life. That is the difference between us.” We love life. We love all lives, however corrupted, and twisted theirs might be.

They will seek to annihilate us. Their leaders shout this command persistently, to the adulation of the rest. But it is our duty to be like the selfless ones who are now in the lands of hate: willing to give Love, when Love seems to be nowhere else. We must be willing to sacrifice even ourselves, in order to save souls. And they probably won’t change. Not in many years. That’s not why we’re there anyway. We’re there to give them Love. And like the civil rights activist, or the human rights lawyer, we must even stand up for the unpopular—but right—causes.

Right here, in our comfort zones, we could stay. We have enough enemies here, and God has given us enough sufferings here to keep Love alive. We could seek to help out here, give love to our friends, our family, and those we hold dear before us. Our prayers could go out to that land of hatred, though we choose to stay here. Christ told us: “if we love our friends, and hate our enemies, where is the reward in that?” Yet, we could work with our personal enemies, and start from there. We could suffer these pains, in Love.

Or, we could do the impossible; we could be proactive, and go out to those lands of hatred. We could defy human logic (Why?!?) and be the first, of the few, forgotten martyrs of our times. For them. And in death, we shall hold that promise: “Happy are those who are persecuted in My Name, theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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