You know the story: A man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked by robbers, stripped, beaten and left for dead. Later, a rabbi traveling on the road crosses to the other side. So does a Levite. But a much-despised Samaritan takes pity on the man, bandages his wounds and carriers him to an inn. The next day he tells the innkeeper, “Look after him, and when I return, I will reimburse you.” The moral, said Jesus: “Go and do likewise.”
Let’s change a few details: From the Jerusalem-Jericho road to 72nd SKD Boulevard in Monrovia; from an unidentified man by the roadside to Marthalene Williams, a 19-year-old pregnant woman so sick she can’t walk; from a Samaritan to Thomas Eric Duncan, who helps Williams to the hospital and then carries her back home because the hospital is full; from recovery at an inn to a painful death in an overcrowded room. Like the Samaritan, Duncan leaves, but he doesn’t disappear from history. He goes to Texas where he now lies near death from Ebola.
If Duncan survives – and his condition is now “critical” – he faces criminal charges in Liberia and the United States for lying on travel documents. And if he came, knowing that he was himself a deadly weapon, perhaps he should.
Luke’s parable seeks to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The Ebola story is more complicated, but its victims are not just “carriers” to be quarantined. They are our neighbors.