The Gospel of Luke, the Good Samaritan, and Abortion
The Gospel of Luke begins with a variety of charactersvocalizing their expectation that Jesus of Nazareth is the one who fulfills thepromise made to Abraham and brings salvation to all the nations (1:54-55, 73; 2:25-32; 3:1-6). Luke ends with Jesustelling his disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness to all thenations (24:44-49). Thus, Luke begins andends with the emphasis on the universal ministry of Jesus to all of humanity.
As we read the rest of Luke, however, we find that thehumanity Jesus has come to save is horribly divided and fractured. Those withpower have found ways to oppress and marginalize those with out it. Those inreligious authority push away those who are deemed “sinners.” Those with wealthpush away the poor. Those with political strength push away the weak. Those whoare healthy push away the sick. Those of certain racial groups push awaymembers of different races. In Jesus’ day, as in ours, those without powerfound themselves pushed to the margins, treated as lesser humans, and sometimessimply discarded. For the Jew, those most commonly marginalized were woman,children, the poor, lepers, tax-collectors, “sinners,” prostitutes, Samaritans,and Gentiles. Yet, in contrast to wider society, these were the sorts of peoplethat Jesus welcomed and ministered to. In one of his first public sermons inJewish synagogue, he says that the Spirit anointed him to preach “good news tothe poor” (4:18). He then went onto explain that even those outside Israel canobtain God’s blessing (4:24-27). Additionally, we see Jesus calling “sinners”to be his followers, healing lepers, dining with tax-collectors, forgivingprostitutes, being accompanied by women, ministering to the poor, and welcomingchildren to himself. From Luke’s gospel, we learn that Jesus’ ministry to allhumanity really does include all of humanity, as he consistently ministers to even those on the margins, the weak,and the helpless.
One story in the Gospel of Luke that speaks against thepractice of marginalizing other humans is the parable of the Good Samaritan inLuke 10:25-37...
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."
The overarching point of this parable is that we should notput limitations on who we will consider a “neighbor.” The lawyer, as a Jew,likely hated Samaritans and felt as though “Samaritan” should not be included inhis category of “neighbor.” Jesus then used an example of a Samaritan, overagainst religious Jewish leaders, as one who truly understood what it means tolove one’s neighbor. Thus, we should not limit our concept of “neighbor” toonly certain classes of people. Anyone we come in contact with, especiallyhelpless people, should be objects of our compassion.
When we look at the Good Samaritan story in particular andthe Gospel of Luke as a whole, we can draw some important connections to theissue of abortion. First, like the lawyer who asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?”in order to justify his limited sense of compassion, designating the fetus as anon-person also puts limitations on neighbor love. When someone says “a fetusis not a person and therefore we can kill it if we want to”, he is putting alimitation on who we should be morally responsible for. Jesus actually told usto do the opposite, to widen the doors of our compassion. If we are going tofollow Jesus in this, we should include the unborn as “neighbors.” Second, ifwe are to follow Jesus in ministering to those oppressed and marginalized bythe powerful, should we not also minister to those vulnerable to abortion? Whois more threatened by those in power than the unborn? The unborn are the weakest,most helpless and dependent members of the human community. More than 95% ofthe time, abortion ends their lives because those more powerful find them to bean inconvenience. Jesus taught both by word and example that the weak andhelpless should be welcomed and loved not marginalized and discarded.
Jesus came to bring salvation to all the nations, whichmeans that each and every person is welcome to him and ought to be an object oflove. To follow him means that we ought to do the same.