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Martin Luther King

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  • April 2012
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Martin Luther King, Jr. often referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). While King’s interpretation of the parable evolved over time, he maintained a consistent focus on the way the parable allows us to examine the obligations owed to one another, provided an enduring way to read this text.

The Neighbour
Of course, the parable makes clear that the Samaritan, the one who does not pass by, the one who risks himself and gives of himself, is the true neighbour of the wounded traveller. King, noting that the merciful stranger was of a different race* than the wounded traveller, also notes that he lives by a different principle from that of the robber or the passers-by. This Samaritan, this good neighbour has somehow come to know that "What is mine is thine." Like Albert Schweitzer, Peace Corps volunteers, and those working and marching and dying for civil rights, the Samaritan understands that "all humanity is tied together." Neither predators nor passers-by can be safe in a world where misery, famine, plague, and hatred are the scourge of millions. These ills are contagious, you know...This is the witness of Jesus, "who said in his own life 'what is mine is thine, I’ll give it to you, you don’t have to beg me for it. For King, the Samaritan neighbour has flipped the implicit question asked by the passers-by (what will happen to me if I help?) and acts on the question "what will happen to the wounded stranger if I don’t help?" It is this, and his effective action to render aid, take the wounded traveller to safety.

The Robbers
Predatory behaviour has bedevilled human history, and King gave a number of examples ancient and modern: slavery, colonialism, street crime, even preachers’ playing on people's religious desires in order to line their pockets. King’s fury was evident as he recited again and again the robber’s credo: "What is thine is MINE! And if you don’t give it to me, I’ll take it from you."

The Way of the World
The priest...

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