The Good Samaritan: An American Perspective

This is a third retelling of Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan. The first two can be found by clicking below:

The Good Samaritan: A Syrian Perspective

The Good Samaritan: An Asylum-Seeker Perspective

NOTE: Before reading below, I encourage you to look at the featured image above where Jesus Himself is depicted as the injured man. If this strikes you as it did me, please read my additional *note at the end of this post. 


Read this retelling of the parable below with this question in mind: How many dimensions of the word “neighbor” do you see?

A young woman was jogging on the Riverview Park trails in Charlottesville late one evening. She never saw her attacker coming. He dragged her into the woods, hit her several times, and covered her mouth while he hurt her. He left her for dead and she lay unconscious for several hours.

Not long after the attacker left, a nun from a local parish happened to walk by. Having worked with many homeless people in the past, she simply mistook the unconscious woman for a street person attempting to sleep out of sight.

Soon after, an ethics professor from UVA ran by. But he was distracted by his Apple Watch at the exact moment the unconscious woman would have been in view.

But a Somali refugee walking home with a bag of groceries came immediately to where the woman was, and when he saw her, he took pity on her. He went to her and helped her cover up. He left his groceries behind and immediately took her to the nearest ER where he reported the crime to the attendant at the desk. The woman was put in a room right away, and the Somali man sat with her so she would not be alone. At one point he appeared to be praying.

When the young woman’s family finally arrived, they rushed in to console her. Soon after, the Somali man slipped out quietly without leaving any of his information. The young woman and the attendant only knew his first name: Yussuf.

Which one of these three was a neighbor to the young woman?


In this version of the parable, a young woman becomes a victim of an all-too-familiar scenario. The nun, like the priest in Jesus’ parable, represents those who are expected to serve others yet sometimes fail to do so for various reasons. The professor represents all of us who often fail to even notice needs because of our distracted lives.

When Jesus used the Samaritan in the original parable, he inserted a character his audience would have considered to be among the last to offer assistance. In fact, they would have likely assumed the arrival of a Samaritan would only make matters worse.

Like the Samaritan in Jesus’ parable, the Somali man in this story is intended to be a counter-narrative to much of the rhetoric being espoused in our current cultural climate. Rather than causing more harm to the victim, he is self-sacrificing. He disregards his much needed and costly groceries and jumps into action on her behalf. He notifies the authorities even with the risk of calling unwanted attention to himself.

Might he even have been accused of the attack himself had he stayed?

The Somali man gave her personal care not only with his actions, but with his presence and prayers until she was no longer alone. When her family arrived, he humbly slipped away without any expectation of gratitude or reward. His name, Yussuf, is that of one of the most famous refugees/slaves/prisoners in the Bible (see Genesis 37-50).

How many dimensions of the word neighbor exist? 

*NOTE on the image featured in this post: Often icons will insert Jesus into portrayals of the parable as either the injured man or the Samaritan. Below is an example of each. In the image on the left, Jesus is the injured man, reminding us of His words in another parable: “. . . for whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). In the icon on the right, Jesus is the Samaritan, one who comes from the outside and enters the world of those in need of a Savior, while the injured man is Adam, representing all of humanity and our desperation.

2 thoughts on “The Good Samaritan: An American Perspective

  1. Dear brother,
    I love to read the articles you pen. My understanding has grown measurably since meeting you so many years ago.
    My journey has taken many turns and God is so special in my life, as He is in yours.
    I think of you often and pray for you and your sweet family daily.
    We need to get together soon and enjoy our memories.
    In Christ,

  2. This is a beautiful modern telling of the Good Samaritan. I first saw this beautiful Coptic icon when I joined Pinterest.
    I am an orthodox Christian educator who specializes in iconography to my students.
    I have been searching for a copy of this icon to share with students. It speaks volumes of the love Jesus had got us. Can you help me locate a copy of this icon? I have seen it many times on Pinterest but no identifying information on its source. Can you help? Thank you fo much fir your inspirational explanation of this Gospel lesson.
    “But who is my neighbor” ?

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