In a video message posted Oct. 16, Pope Francis spoke these words:
"Do you know what comes to mind now when, together with popular movements, I think of the Good Samaritan? Do you know what comes to mind? The protests over the death of George Floyd. It is clear that this type of reaction against social, racial or macho injustice can be manipulated or exploited by political machinations or whatever, but the main thing is that, in that protest against this death, there was the Collective Samaritan who is no fool!"
When George Floyd was killed by a rogue officer, I both wrote and preached against that unjustified killing. And when protesters responded by burning buildings, assaulting people in the streets, looting stores and shooting and killing people, including, ironically, a retired Black police officer named David Dorn, I wrote and preached against that, too. On that particular night of violence in St. Louis, not only was Dorn killed, but 55 businesses, entities owned and operated by people who had nothing whatsoever to do with Floyd's death, were also burglarized and had property damage. Two wrongs have never made a right.
And two wrongs never will make a right, even if one of those wrongs has the Pope giving it props.
When I read the statement Pope Francis made equating the George Floyd protesters to the Good Samaritan, I was disappointed but not surprised. Pope Francis has not shown any particularly strong allegiance to the actual text of Scripture thus far and seems to view it as more of a useful Gumby rather than an authoritative guide. But in his Good Samaritan equation, he went further afield than normal and, in so doing, missed an opportunity to use that particular Scripture in the way it was intended, which would then do the most good for us today. Trying to fit Scripture into one's agenda always weakens its effect, even if people like what you are making it say. Accurately applying Scripture, even if people do not want to hear it, unleashes it and allows it to do the most good in people who desperately need it.
The account of the Good Samaritan is found in Luke 10:30-35. "And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."
This account was given in response to a conversation Jesus had with a lawyer who, like many in that day, only wanted to show kindness to "his own kind." Jesus informed him of this account in which a man, clearly a Jew since he was coming from Jerusalem, was beaten and robbed and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed by and could not be bothered to help tend to him. But a man of a different and very despised race, a Samaritan, put racial hatred aside and stepped in to help. He personally tended to the man's wounds, carried him to an inn and paid for all of his care.
Having ended the account, we then read the end of the exchange in Luke 10:36-37, "Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise."
"Go show mercy on those you are inclined to hate" is a very different version of the Good Samaritan than "burn the world down to prove your point." Everything the Good Samaritan did was peaceful; every bit of money he used was his own, he never sought any credit or glory, he never broke any laws, and nothing he did served to further separate people based on race.
If the Good Samaritan were alive today and could hear the Pope's equation of him with the George Floyd protesters, he would certainly react in horror. In fact, the Good Samaritan would be the one tending to the victims of the rioters and looters, whether they were Black or White or other, rather than being among the rioters and looters.
Those who simply and peacefully stated their case deserve credit for doing it right. But there ought to be universal condemnation for those who "protested" by resorting to lawlessness and violence. And there certainly should not, ever, be any moral standing given to protesters like that, certainly not as high a moral standing as the Good Samaritan, for whom the racial division that has been fomented since the death of George Floyd would have been utterly abhorrent.
The Good Samaritan's account brought people together; it did not drive them further apart.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2knowhim@ cbc-web.org.