When the Samaritan (Lk 10,25-37) saw the beaten and robbed person he was moved and he helped, although he had no idea who this man was, where he came from, what he believed in or what his life was about. To the Samaritan this was all irrelevant. He saw a fellow human being in need and he provided first aid.
Jesus told this parable to a lawyer. It was his historical answer to the moral question “Who is my neighbour?”. The Moral Law expressed through The Samaritan Imperative is categorical or universal as Kant would say. It is beyond religion. Love comes first as a moral and transformative choice.
Who ever follows the Samaritan Imperative on the roadsides of life makes the world a better place. Love matters! Christians and many other groups and religions have heard and followed the Samaritan Imperative. And as Samaritans, they rely on the Innkeepers who take over. Before they continue their own journey — like the Priest and the Levite — the Samaritans pay the Innkeeper to step in and prolong their love-story. The Parable of the Good Samaritan works also because of the unnamed and often forgotten Innkeeper.
For the Innkeeper the Samaritan Imperative is not categorical, but hypothetical. Service will be provided under fair conditions. His action is part of the Samaritan’s action who promised to come back and to pay even more if necessary. Many Non-Profit-Inns are and were designed to serve on such a hypothetical basis. They participate in the Samaritan Imperative in their own right and way.
Love of the neighbour — as any love — is hard and continuous work. As a categorical imperative it is upheld by the lighter, but necessary hypothetical imperative. A cohesive society needs both sides of the Samaritan Imperative: ever new Samaritans and fair Innkeepers!
Happy to read your comments.
Erny Gillen, consults, teaches, and writes about ethics & leadership