The Arabic translation of Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context , a publication of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in cooperation with Dar Manhal Al Hayat, was just recently released at the opening ceremony of the Middle East Conference 2012 that is organized by the ABTS’ Institute of Middle East Studies. The event was held under the High Patronage of the President of the Council of Ministers, H.E. Mr. Najib Mikati, and in the presence of his representative the Minister of Education Mr. Hassan Diab.

The timing could not have been more perfect particularly as the theme of this year’s MEC conference “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: The Church and the Palestinian in Light of God’s Command for Justice and Compassion” seeks to explore Biblical issues of justice, reflecting on the historical, political and social backgrounds of these issues, and envisioning restorative initiatives of peace and Christ-like love.

Glen Stassen, the co-author, highlighted during the event that , “…in Kingdom Ethicswe focus on Jesus’ most extensive teaching about the shape of love—the parable of the compassionate Samaritan. We exegete its meaning by asking which features of the parable would have made a definite impact on his hearers in first-century Galilee. Many people read their preconceptions into the parable. We try to be more objective. We ask what in the parable would have impacted Jesus’ original hearers.

  1. They could not have missed Jesus’ clear contrast between the priest who saw the victim, and passed by on the other side; and the Levite, who saw him, and passed by on the other side; and the Samaritan who saw him with compassion, and went to him to help him.Jesus makes this clear contrast; we are not reading our favorite preconceptions into the parable. Jesus is saying that love sees with compassion and enters into the situation of persons in bondage.
  2. Love does deeds of deliverance. Parables are very succinct. They do not waste words. But Jesus names nine deeds of deliverance: The Samaritan pours oil on his wounds, pours wine on the wounds, bandages the wounds, puts him on his own donkey, brings him to an inn, takes care of him there himself, pays the innkeeper two days’ wages, asks him to take care of the victim while he is gone, and promises to pay what more is owed when he returns. That is strong emphasis. When we say love does deeds of deliverance, we are not reading our favorite idea into it; Jesus himself makes this parable extra long by naming nine deeds of deliverance. And these are exactly the kind of deeds that are needed for deliverance of the victim from his woundedness. They are deeds of deliverance… Nowhere does Jesus say they are purely unselfish and sacrificial. Suppose the Samaritan had said how awful it was that the victim was robbed and wounded, and out of his compassion had committed suicide on the spot. That would have been self-sacrifice, but not a deed of deliverance. Jesus’ parable was realistic; it named the needed deeds of deliverance.
  3. Love invites into community with freedom, justice and responsibility for the future. Jesus is clearly emphasizing the invitation into community between Samaritan and Jew—lifting him up bodily, putting him on the donkey, bringing him into the community of the inn, doing the justice of paying for the stay in the inn, promising to return in the future to pay. Both have the freedom to remain Samaritan and Jew. In today’s conflict, both sides need to hear such an invitation for a secure and just state in the future.
  4. Love confronts those who exclude. When Jesus named the one who showed compassion a Samaritan, he was directly confronting Jews who excluded Samaritans. Does Jesus confront us with a question for our own repentance?

During a reception that followed the event, Dr. Stassen was present to discuss his book and sign copies of it, which were available for purchase at the event.

June 18, 2012

News first published by the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary and used with their permission.