Will American Christians Fail the Good Samaritan Test?

Christians immigration and good samaritans

He was traveling to the big city when the thing he dreaded most happened—robbers descended, beat him viciously, stole his money, and left him along the road for dead. He was miles from friends and family with no one to help him.

The religious leaders passing by were too busy to help him. It wasn’t their fault and it wasn’t their problem. He probably took risks that put his life in jeopardy any way. Who would take time out of his busy day and assume the financial risk to care for this vulnerable man by the side of the road?

We all know how this story ends: The Good Samaritan stepped up to care for the wounded man, but do we know WHY Jesus shared this story? Here’s a look at the questions that led to this parable:

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Luke 10:25-29, NIV BibleGateway

With that, Jesus launched into this well-known story where the least likely person had mercy on a stranger in need. It’s implied that the Levite and Priest in the story should have had every reason to help their countryman and fellow believer. However, it was the foreigner and, according to the Jews, heretic, who stepped in.

Even with his “flawed” beliefs about where to worship God and his different priorities as a resident of Samaria, he saw the human need in front of him and took care of it, no matter how inconvenient or unfair it was.


Today, Americans face a different sort of crisis, but the connections to the Good Samaritan story are still relevant. Tens of thousands of children are fleeing violence in the Central American nations of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvadore. They face beatings, rape, and murder at the hands of these gangs. It’s so bad that thousands of parents have calculated that their children face better odds at the hands of coyotes who lead their children across the U.S. border, even though children may well be raped or beaten along the way by drug smugglers.

Do you think any parents would want to be separated from their children?

Can you imagine a child who would want to leave his or her parents?

What were you interested in when you were eight, nine, ten, or eleven years old? I was interested in baseball and model ships. I went to movies with my family and planted tomato plants in the yard with my grandfather.

We lived across from a schoolyard where teenagers sometimes drank and did drugs in the evening, but I could look down at them from my bedroom window knowing that I was safe. We had locked doors and attentive police who would come and care for us if we called for them.

These thousands of children crossing our borders are fleeing violence that is far worse than anything the U.S. Army faced in Iraq during the violence of 2007. Their only hope is the mercy of America.

While there are fears that these children could be deported, some government officials have suggested that the U.S. will determine ways to provide asylum. Most children have been placed with relatives, but their long-term status remains uncertain.

I’m encouraged to learn that these children are temporarily safe and that few have been returned to their countries where near certain death or exploitation awaits them. I’m also encouraged to hear that the U.S. government is stepping up aid initiatives in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

However, in the interim, it’s our role as people of faith to advocate for these children and, when necessary, to provide sanctuary to those fleeing violence until a safe place can be provided. This is caring for neighbors 101. I don’t see this as a negotiable if you want to follow Jesus. When children are in danger, followers of Jesus, the one who said “Let the little children come to me” and told us to care for “the least of these,” must take the side of the children.


Jesus told us that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors.

Who is your neighbor?

How can you become a good neighbor to others?

Helping children seeking asylum is as good a place to start as any other.

What if being a good neighbor who loves others means having compassion for these children in our detention centers and offering them sanctuary? Many of them already have contact information for their relatives and can become productive members of society if given a chance.

Americans can hide behind legal arguments… “They broke the law. Deport them now. No exceptions!”

That would be correct under American law. I won’t argue the point. That just wouldn’t be a viable Christian perspective. It’s OK to be an American. However, at a certain point you have to decide on your primary loyalties—you know, that whole “no servant can serve two masters” business that somebody mentioned in the Bible once.

Being an American does not relieve us of our Christian responsibility to love our neighbors.

The Good Samaritan didn’t send the wounded man back into the wilderness where the robbers could finish him off because it wasn’t his problem. He didn’t apply a bandage and then chase him away because he didn’t have the resources to care for him.

He bandaged the man and then set him up at a local inn to recover, paying for all of his expenses. It’s costly. It’s not convenient. It’s not even fair. It’s just necessary.

For all of the time Christians spend talking about mercy and grace, perhaps we forget that both are rarely fair or convenient. For all of the Christians making noise about employers challenging contraception laws, what of laws that prevent us from loving our neighbors?

Loving our neighbors isn’t a matter of picking and choosing which people get to be our neighbors. Isn’t that the whole point of the Good Samaritan parable? Vulnerable people cross our paths unexpectedly without announcing themselves, and sometimes they simply need our help. Loving our neighbors involves stepping in to help when the chance to show love presents itself, not when neighbors meet a government-specified checklist.

Jesus doesn’t give legal loopholes for “illegal immigrants” when loving our neighbors.

We aren’t supposed to check the documents of our neighbors before offering to help them, especially when they are terrified children seeking shelter from violence.

Those who don’t want to help children fleeing for their lives because they’re illegal immigrants are free to turn them away.

They’re Americans after all. That’s their right. They can uphold the law to the letter.

However, those Americans who also want to call themselves Christians, as in those who are committed to obeying the actual teachings of Christ, will need to chop Jesus’ most important teachings about caring for neighbors out of the Bible if they want to ignore the cries of thousands of children risking their lives in order to flee rape and violence in their homelands.

If Jesus is Lord, and if children are indeed in danger, then he’s going to take their side. If the Christians in America side with immigration laws that call for deporting these vulnerable (often abused) children back to the danger they are fleeing, then it’s likely that these Americans know very little of the Christ they claim to follow.

15 thoughts on “Will American Christians Fail the Good Samaritan Test?

  1. Ed, great article! Thanks for challenging us and speaking with such clarity. I noticed you linked to KIND as one way for people to get involved in this specific need. Do you know of other ways people can get involved? It would be great if you knew of a few ways we can get involved in this area of need. Thanks!


    1. Thanks for commenting Matt. I did some digging this morning, and that was the only group I could find that’s helping in this situation. It sounds like the government is actually trying to get kids relocated with family members quickly, even if the initial border detention they face is pretty stark. I think the main need will be legal advocacy should these kids face deportation in the future. They need asylum until long term solutions can be reached in their home countries.


      1. Thanks, Ed. It sounds like there is still a pretty great need. I appreciate your research and efforts in this post. You took a very refreshing approach in a conversation that seems to be handled so poorly in many Christian circles.


  2. Reblogged this on myfullemptynest and commented:
    “Christians, as in those who are committed to obeying the actual teachings of Christ, will need to chop Jesus’ most important teachings about caring for neighbors out of the Bible if they want to ignore the cries of thousands of children risking their lives in order to flee rape and violence in their homelands.”


  3. I am not sure you had your facts correct! Not all of these children are fleeing from murder, rape, etc! That fact has been proven wrong or at the very least exaggerated! You only speak of the children when in fact the majority of these children are 16-18. I have several friends who are going through the system to bring their families here legally and they have to wait years! Something is wrong when it is acceptable to break the law for some and not others! I believe Jesus spoke of obeying the law!


    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      I hardly think that Ed is proposing that it’s ok for some to break the law and others not. The issue is much deeper here, it’s about our response to this law breaking by a people that easily fit the description of being ‘the least of these’ of whom Jesus spoke in Matthew 25. You’re right though, Jesus did teach about obeying the law. However, I don’t think you’ll find where he taught that we should withhold love, care, and forgiveness from someone because they broke the law. In fact, in John 8 Jesus challenges the Pharisees regarding the woman caught in adultery. Clearly she was being accused of breaking God’s law, yet Jesus offered her forgiveness while challenging the Pharisees to examine their own guilt before condemning her. Regardless of someone’s guilt in breaking the law (aren’t we all guilty in some way?) how can we as Christians refuse to offer hope, care, forgiveness, and love to those in need?


    2. Elizabeth, when did we, the United States of America, quit granting asylum? Why are millions of noncombatant aliens of all ages being granted asylum in the Middle East by countries far poorer than the USA and we can’t accept a couple hundred thousand children, siblings and parents under dire threat of their lives? When did 16-18 year old people become no longer defined as children? When did so many Christians in the USA no longer look to their Father in Heaven for guidance as children born of God? If their is a conflict between the law of Caesar and the law of God (as was just alluded to in Luke 10:25-37) which one do we follow to live?

      Why have we not struck theses words from the Statue of Liberty?

      Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
      With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
      Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
      A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
      Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
      Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
      Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
      The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
      “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
      With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
      Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
      The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
      Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
      I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

      “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”” Matthew 19:21

      Is our eternal life truly worth sacrificing to protect (horde) our possession of the United Sates of America?


    3. Not every child is fleeing for the same reasons, but if you read the articles I linked to, you’ll see that these children are running away from horrendous violence. I mean, these are real people like you and me. Why else would someone send an elementary school child through the deserts of Mexico? Would not a parent want to keep his/her children nearby?

      And Jesus had no problem with breaking unjust or unmerciful laws, so there’s that!

      One last note, I’m not saying we should encourage these children to come. They’re just here. We should work to bring stability to their homes because we want them to stay with their families, right? But if they’re here we can’t just treat them like dogs. We have to show mercy even if it’s inconvenient or, according to some, “unfair.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Elizabeth,

        I would love to invite you to travel to Honduras with me sometime. I go about every 6 months, and just got back on Sunday from my latest work there. I’d love to introduce you to the 16 and 17 year olds (as well as younger children) who ARE escaping the things you say are being exaggerated. I’d introduce you to the 17 year old whose brother in law raped her, and when she ran away he called the police to report her as a runaway and she landed in a Honduran run orphanage. I’d introduce you to the 14 year old in the same orphanage whose uncle raped her – rather than press charges against him because he is the main bread-winner for the family unit, the parents sent her away to the orphanage. The examples go on and on…

        I assure you, you cannot trust the media responses to this situation that are painting this as just teenaged persons risking what they are risking for a “better life” – they are risking everything just for the chance at life.

        Steve Rose

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Unless you are of native American descent, all of us are only a few generations away from family members who escaped their own countries for a better life here. Life was pretty horrible for my Slovak ancestors when they arrived in the early 1900’s – very few jobs, hungry families, language barrier, very little government help (in fact my grandmother was the result of the ‘problems’ that are being bandied about: her father got together with a local lady who was not his wife. She gave birth to my grandmother in a foundling hospital run by the Catholics). Here I am today, able to respond to a blog about those who also want a chance at a better life. The church should be leading the way to help, not complain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ed, I love your commentary about the Parable of the Good Samaritan but your assessment of the situation on the Southern Border is both mistaken and simplistic. As an Agent with friends currently involved in the enforcement efforts down south I can state that the issue is much more complex than just a simple issue of charity.

    First of all, most of the children streaming across our border currently are not coming here because they are in danger from violence in their home countries. The situation in central America at the moment is difficult but it is at its least violent context in the last 40 years. There are no wars currently and although drugs are flowing through they are not experiencing the criminal violence currently seen in Mexico.
    Secondly, much of the flow of immigrants into the U.S. from central America is due from misinformation from smuggling organizations and other groups trying to convince people in those countries that they can obtain benefits from sending their children here. These groups are spreading that misinformation for their own self interests.

    I believe that we should do our best to help all those coming across our border but ultimately we need to help them in their home countries and not keep them here. We need to do our best to help their countries improve their living conditions. We are called to be involved but that involvement does not necessarily mean allowing thousands of children to immigrate here ultimately doing nothing to improve the lives of those they leave behind.
    A much better assessment of the situation is noted on the Red State website; The Christian Thing to Do,
    By: Erick Erickson (Diary).


    1. Ben, you are kidding … right? I went to the Red State website and it is rife with propaganda lies, easily refuted. You might like to peruse more reliable sources of information than a hate site that you deem “A much better assessment of the situation.” Pay attention to assessments on this site from those who’ve said they witnessed. I’m sorry but as far as I am concerned your credentials may just as well be those of a local travel “Agent”. Let us try to be a little more discerning than you just displayed, please.

      Murder rates tallied by the liberal bleeding hearts of the United Nations per each 100,000 listed by the worst top seven and then the United States of America for comparison:

      Country per 100K Year Accounted

      Honduras 90.4 2012
      Venezuela 53.7 2012
      U.S. Virgin Islands 52.9 2010
      Belize 44.7 2012
      El Salvador 41.2 2012
      Guatemala 39.9 2012
      Jamaica 39.9 2012
      United States 04.8 2012

      Most recent reports from the United Nations and Unicef:








      If you got to the bottom line here I would ask you to consider the 3,000 mile journey 52,000 children this year have traveled with hope for better. Just the numbers alone say you are wrong. Those turning themselves in at our border are the strong and the lucky that survived where many children died along the way. There just isn’t enough money in the region to account for the 5 to 14 thousand dollar per child fee demanded by the coyotes who are the only cartels profiting from this mass exit. The drug, prostitution and slavery cartels lose without those resources available to profit from who might have else where some hope realized by asylum in countries with a heart.

      I am sickened by those who claim the United States as God graced to them who can’t find it in their heart to trust God to provide for others seeking the same asylum as did their ancestors.


    2. Hi Ben, I agree with you that the long term solution is to provide help for these Central American nations and to help them root out corruption, etc. I specifically linked to a White House fact sheet listing all of its current projects along those lines. As for my facts/perspective being mistaken and simplistic, I’m basing my argument on mainstream news reports (not a right wing political blog, by the way). And if I want a Christian perspective on immigration, I certainly won’t turn to a right wing political blog (or a left wing blog like the Daily Kos for that matter). If you want to provide links to fact-checked news stories that dispute the articles I’m linking to and basing my post on, you are welcome to share them and I’ll approve the comment since I automatically moderate comments with links in them.


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