Would the Good Samaritan Fight?

I was recently asked a great question: If the Good Samaritan had shown up when the robbers were still beating the man, would he have intervened?

It’s a good question without a simple answer.  Yes!  No!  Maybe?  It depends?  It’s hard to know for sure since that’s not what happened, but we could make some educated guesses. First, my overall philosophy on how to frame the answer: We look at the life and teachings of Jesus (big surprise, eh?)!  But seriously, many theologians, when asked about retaliation or defense in a physical manner, resort to the Old Testament for their answers.

Here’s why that’s a bad idea: While the Old Testament (the Torah, the history books, the books of poetry and the prophets) are inspired and useful, they are mostly stories of what happened.  Can we learn from them?  Of course.  Can we draw principles and lessons for our lives from them – often times, yes.  But we have to be careful when quoting from a historical situation from 1 Kings or Ezekiel, that we not impose what happened on our modern context.  This is a tricky bit of hermeneutics, but it’s vital to my argument – otherwise we can quote hundreds of verses and stories from the Old Testament to justify in type of violence.

So I stick with Jesus. Sounds obvious, but I’ve found that many of our theological underpinnings come from places other than the life of Christ.  In the end, he is our supreme example in all we say, think and do.  The rest of the scripture should bolster our points made from his life, but never contradict them.

Enough of the theology lesson – on to the point. (I’m delaying as I think up an answer.)

So, from the life of Jesus do we see:

Jesus ever fighting back?
Jesus ever resisting physically? (Even death)?
Jesus ever encouraging us to fight back?

(Some would say that the disciples had swords [Luke 22:49] and that Jesus didn’t tell them to not carry swords; in fact, he seemed to acknowledge that they did have them and possibly should have them.  However, the answer lies shortly afterwards in verse 51 when he says “No more of this,”  and in Matthew 26:52-53, when Jesus says “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of Angels?”)

So, while there are some scriptures in the gospels that would require careful study and contextual critique, the overarching image and teaching from the life of Jesus is to “love your enemy” and to not resist violent acts with violence.

Is this practical? Does it work in “real life?”  Would the Samaritan have been “successful” if he had simply stood by while the robbers beat the man?

A question to the question: Is anything about following Jesus normal?  Successful?  Real?  Practical?  What happened to Jesus because he didn’t fight back – he was killed.  Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Killed.  Gandhi? Killed.  Most of the early followers?  Killed.  Was that practical?

The question I leave for you to consider is this: Have we been fighting to save our lives and live in “peace” and “security” while actually forgetting that we’re called to bear the instrument of death (the cross) and to model a life of dying over living?

P.S.  And here’s my answer:  If the Samaritan would have stumbled upon this man while he was being beaten, and in faith cried out to God to rescue the man, perhaps God would have.  And if not, then the story would have had another ending and a different point.  (Not a very satisfying “answer” is it)!?


  1. David Higginbotham says:


    Thought provoking post…

    The thing that usually bothers me about these questions is that one can easily craft an answer to support one’s point of view. You seem to have given it a more even treatment and I appreciate that.

    I could, however, easily see the samaritan placing himself between the robbers and the victim and taking the risks attached to such action. It would seem that to stand by and watch such an evil action take place with out attempting to stop it would be out of character with the character of Jesus. This is not a well developed thought on my part…just an instinctive response. I would hope that if I were the victim of such an attack a Brother would step in and try to stop it and that I would do the same. Doing so, IMO would not make one a violent person but one who is a protector of the weak and those in need.

    Once again, good post.

    Godspeed to you and your family this Christmas season.

    (PS. I live in Kansas City and have heard you speak at Metro several times and followed your ministry over the years. Glad to
    E-connect with you on FB and your blog.)

  2. David R. Jones says:

    I appreciated reading your blog about the good Samaritan as well as the comment above. I’m not sure what the Samaritan would do if he had been on the scene when the beating and robbery occurred. Perhaps the robbers would not have bothered doing their evil deed, but I think the Samaritan would have intervened to ward off the attack.

    On another subject, Carl, are you familiare with the book “Because They Hate” by Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese woman who survived the attacks by Hezbollah in the early 70s then came to the U.S. where she is now a columnist and writer, also an Orthodox Christian. We’d appreciate your comment on her book which is quite strongly worded as a warning to the U.S. about Muslim intentions toward our country; i.e. to conquer us and dominate the world ultimately.

    David R. Jones

    1. David, thanks for the question – it’s one I often get. Bottom line, she’s got the typical “minority complex” of a “Christian” living in a Muslim country. Hurt. Full of Fear. Her book is a HUGE problem – focusing on every negative angle possible to make us afraid. Bottom line, fear only produces one thing – bad behavior! Don’t read the stuff. How’s that for a nice response? 🙂

  3. Bob Lamborn says:

    Carl, Carl, Carl…love your thoughts that really make you think, but I would also say Jesus said to do unto others and no greater love than this that a man lay down his life for his friends. If any of us were the one being beaten, what would we want someone to do, not to mention what would this man’s family want the Samaritan to do if he was witnessing the attack? But your point is also interesting in that Jesus stopped the violence of the woman caught in adultery but by the power of reaching the mens’ hearts with his words. And certainly if he had stepped in the way to stop a stone from hitting the woman, he would not have thrown it back.

  4. Alex Horn says:

    I am a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy and obviously have wrestled and wrestled over this issue. I’ve read books that have swayed me one way or the other but have yet to become convinced that violence is ever the best (in italics) way. I think, and have learned alot of this from you carl, that it is clear that Jesus’ way is the best way. However, i struggle at times to learn how to apply his way to our world. If we (as a nation) back in WWII acted as jesus would, would hitler and nazi germany have taken over the world? Now there are thousands of hypotheticals that we could bring up but it is an interesting thing to think about. Dietrich Bonhoffer was a man who opposed Nazi Germany while being an incredibly influential follower of Christ. Are we, along with following the “greatest commandment” of love, to also oppose injustice and evil? These are all questions and no answers so i would appreciate any input you all have…

  5. Alex

    We are for sure called to oppose evil and injustice. But Paul says “do not repay evil with evil” and “do good to your enemies.” So the question is HOW do we fight injustice and evil without becoming like the ones we fight. How can we stand up for the “beaten up guy in the ditch” without stooping to the same level as the attackers? And Jesus’ life and teachings provide the answers to that. If you can’t picture Jesus physically beating someone up -that’s probably because he wouldn’t (and didn’t). So then, what would he do? Or…what did he do?

    1. Alex Horn says:

      I think those are all great points. I guess the question i am wondering is if there are people who are so unjust, or so evil, that showing the love of Christ maybe doesnt even work on them. It feels kinda weird even asking that because i know that His love is more powerful than i could ever imagine and i know it is not confined by mans wickidness. But, for example, when you were in the desert that one time getting held at gunpoint by the iraqui men. Lets say they were planning on killing you guys. Would it have done any good to say “God loves you and so do I.” Or could that have only caused them to kill you sooner? Then again, as you said about that story, God’s love for them would be worth that i guess. SOrry i am kind of just spilling out all my thoughts onto this blog, im a verbal processor. So if what i said is true, that Gods love for the world is worth me dying, or is worth my family dying, or is worth a nation being taken over by an evil empire (maybe what could have happened in the 40’s if we had not retaliated against Hitler), then what place does a bumbling follower of Jesus have in the Military like myself?

      1. Alex Horn says:

        oh and Carl, i am going to be going to Egypt next fall (Cairo) to study abroad. I have felt an urge inside me or maybe just a desire to get involved with some followers of christ over there talking about jesus with the Arab people. I will have some free time over there and would like to spend it devoted to whatever Jesus is doing over there and trying to follow him. So if you know anyone over there that i could contact i would appreciate it. Also, if you arent too busy, and would have time to meet with me before i go i would appreciate any advice you can give me. I am a good friend of Dell Vanessen and his family so if you are ever over at their house maybe i could just come too and chat a bit with you both.

  6. paul merrill says:

    I completely and totally agree with you, Carl.

    I have a believer friend who is very anti-gun-control. I have “argued” with him about the issue. When I read your post, I thought it would be great for him to read it. But I will not be forwarding it to him, as I know his mind is made up – and nothing I say will change his mind, even if it’s someone else speaking.

    That’s frustrating.