Carnivore or Herbivore?

Dinosaur-SamaritanCarnivore or Herbivore? Was the question asked by Taliesin when he was asked to portray the Good Samaritan as a dinosaur.  And what a good question.  Should the image of the good Samaritan be one which drives us to go against our natural inclinations and do things which we might otherwise not do!  Is it better to have done good works because it is in your nature, or to have done good despite your inner nature otherwise dictating?  Whilst you attempt to get your head around that on a Sunday morning, the parable of the good Samaritan has often been summed up by saying:  “Do not ask, ‘and who is my neighbour?’, rather ask ‘to whom can I be neighbour?’  This reflects what Jesus does to the letter of the law that is quoted by the lawyer in his questioning.  How many of us can reflect on a time when this story has been re-told in our own context with the Samaritan being someone of whom we might not immediately expect mercy or pity?  Of course, none of these engagements reflect on the context for the story.  Jesus was asked a question by a lawyer, a question which was meant to test him.  The question was: ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’  As the man was a lawyer, Jesus directs him to what he knows best – the law – ‘What do you read there?’  he asks.  The lawyer replies and we presume that Jesus is satisfied with his response, but notice, he does not say ‘do this and you will inherit eternal life’ to reflect the lawyers question, rather, he says ‘do this and you will live’.  A reflection perhaps on what Jesus felt was more important, life now, rather than life eternal.  As all good lawyers know, it is in the interpretation rather than the letter of the law that the true sense is often to be found, so he presses Jesus, perhaps because of the non-committal answer, but perhaps because the law is full of references to ‘neighbour’.  and then we get to the well known parable.  At the end, the lawyer answers Jesus’ final question ‘which one of these was neighbour to the Samaritan?’ and the lawyer answers ‘the one who showed him mercy.’  In the end it is of course the lawyer who is put to the test, rather than Jesus.
So I come back to the question of Taliesin.  Carnivore or Herbivore?
Is it better to have done good works because it is in your nature, or to have done good despite your inner nature otherwise dictating?
The parable was designed to disturb and confront the lawyer.  I think Talie was right to portray the merciful Samaritan as a carnivore dinosaur.  It is so very easy to do what comes naturally to us.  Or to regard those as neighbour those whom we agree and get along just fine.  The ‘neighbour’ it seems in Jesus’ parable takes a slightly different meaning from that which is found in the law, for it appears to mean all those in the community, without prejudice, but those around us.  Jesus seems to be widening that description to include all those whom we encounter as neighbour and expects the law to be upheld in every case – to whom can I be neighbour.  Rowan Williams has written a small volume on the desert fathers called silence and honey cakes.  I don’t recommend it for bedtime reading, however, one phrase that sticks in the mind from that description of life in community is that ‘our life and our death is with our neighbour.’  Do this and you will live says Jesus.

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