2,000 years after Jesus first coined the expressions, we still speak of turning the other cheek and going the extra mile. So, does this mean that we taken onboard this teaching of Jesus?
I don’t think that it does, because the problem with these expressions having become proverbial is that they have also been watered down.
David Beckham was in the local news the other day because he was said to have been a Good Samaritan. This is how motorist Paul Long described his ordeal in the Daily Mail. ‘I was on my way to [take the children to] … school when the car packed up in the middle of a verybusy roundabout in Hertfordshire, not far from the A10. I had two kids in the back. Some people were getting a bit angry. But no-one stopped [to help] for ten minutes. Then this car pulled over in lay-by and I saw this figure wearing a hoodie step out. As he came nearer, it became clear it was David Beckham. I was so shocked I just said: "You’re David Beckham." He nodded and then I said: "Can you give us a push over to the side? So he did." Afterwards, an indebted Mr Long said:‘Thanks David – I love you.’Mr Long also explained that he had telephoned his wife to ask her to come and help them. However, she only arrived after Beckham had left.
There are so many things that one could say about that story: I like the bit where he says, ‘you’re David Beckham’ as if Beckham is a confused old person in a nursing home, whose forgotten his own name. Then there’s that ‘Thanks David – I love you.’ And finally when the man’s wife turns up after Beckham has gone – he would be counting his good fortune that his wife hadn’t got to him first, bearing in mind that his man-crush on Becks would otherwise have been unfulfilled, but on the other hand, Mrs. Long would have been cursing her luck that she had missed him.
There is one bit of the story that first with the parable of the Good Samaritan, but most of it doesn’t. The bit that does is that when Mr Long saw a man in a hoodie coming towards him, he might have been expecting a car jacking, in the way that the Jew in the parable might have expected the Samaritan to pick up where the robbers had left off. We tend to forget that this story was intended to answer the question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ Mr Long’s neighbour was a man in a hoodie, but he found out that hoodies are people too.
The rest of the story rather undermines the point of the parable and diminishes the idea of what a Good Samaritan is. Now, the A10 is a busy road, but the dangers inherent in using it are not quite like travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. The man in the parable was mugged and left for dead, Mr Long was stuck – sorry, accoriding to the Mail that should be stricken – in a car that wouldn’t start for 10 minutes. David Beckham stopped to help – and I’m not mocking him for that, as others had passed by on the other side – and then pushed his car off the road. Had Becks towed Mr Long to a garage and paid to have the car repaired, then taken the kids to school and called back to collect them in the evening, there might have been a greater sense of a legitimate comparison. I’m really not criticising David Beckham, as I believe that there is much to admire in the man, but to call him a Good Samaritan, that’s a bit much.