PERSONAL NOTE: I DECIDED to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it is not available in mainland China. It costs too much to order a copy from USA. Enjoy it and share it with your friends. Steve, China, January 10,2019 firstname.lastname@example.org https;//getting2knowyou-china.com
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On January 9, 2014 this news report headline got the attention of many internet users, including many students on my campus: “Chinese Good Samaritan commits suicide over hit-and-run accusations”. This would not be the first time Chinese citizens are reading and hearing about the growing indifference or callousness of bystanders or ordinary people when confronted with a tragedy before their very eyes, and who did nothing to help the injured or those critically hurt especially the ones by car or motorcycle accidents. So where does this concept of a Good Samaritan come from?
The first time I heard about the parable of the Good Samaritan was when I attended a Sunday school class in a Methodist church in my village in Malaya where I grew up. A parable is simply “a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson.” And I also studied the parables of Jesus when I was in high school in a mission school (a school started and run by missionaries from America, in my case). The story is from the Bible, from the Gospel of Luke, chapter ten, verses 25-37.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 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.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for an extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
What is the meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? I am not someone versed
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in biblical stories or their interpretation, so in my research, I found one of the best answers in GotQuestions.com.
“The Parable of the Good Samaritan is precipitated by and in answer to a question posed to Jesus by a lawyer. In this case the lawyer would have been an expert in the Mosaic Law and not a court lawyer of today. The lawyer’s question was, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ (Luke 10:25). This question provided Jesus with an opportunity to define what His disciples’ relationship should be to their neighbors. The text says that the scribe (lawyer) had put the question to Jesus as a test, but the text does not indicate that there was hostility in the question. He could have simply been seeking information. The wording of the question does, however, give us some insight into where the scribe’s heart was spiritually. He was making the assumption that man must do something to obtain eternal life. Although this could have been an opportunity for Jesus to discuss salvation issues, He chose a different course and focuses on our relationships and what it means to love.
“Jesus answers the question using what is called the Socratic method; i.e., answering a question with a question: ‘He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’’ (Luke 10:26). By referring to the Law, Jesus is directing the man to an authority they both would accept as truth, the Old Testament. In essence, He is asking the scribe, what does Scripture say about this and how does he interpret it? Jesus thus avoids an argument and puts Himself in the position of evaluating the scribe’s answer instead of the scribe evaluating His answer. This directs the discussion towards Jesus’ intended lesson. The scribe answers Jesus’ question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. This is virtually the same answer that Jesus had given to the same question in Matthew 22 and Mark 12.
“In verse 28, Jesus affirms that the lawyer’s answer is correct. Jesus’ reply tells the scribe that he has given an orthodox (scripturally proper) answer, but then goes on in verse 28 to tell him that this kind of love requires more than an emotional feeling; it would also include orthodox practice; he would need to ‘practice what he preached.’ The scribe was an educated man and realized that he could not possibly keep that law, nor would he have necessarily wanted to. There would always be people in his life that he could not love. Thus, he tries to limit the law’s command by limiting its parameters and asked the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The word ‘neighbor’ in the Greek means ‘someone who is near,’ and in the Hebrew it means ‘someone that you have an association with.’ This interprets the word in a limited sense, referring to a fellow Jew and would have excluded Samaritans, Romans, and other foreigners. Jesus then gives the parable of the Good Samaritan to correct the false understanding that the scribe had of who his neighbor is, and what his duty is to his neighbor.
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“The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. That road was treacherously winding and was a favorite hideout of robbers and thieves. The next character Jesus introduces into His story is a priest. He spends no time describing the priest and only tells of how he showed no love or compassion for the man by failing to help him and passing on the other side of the road so as not to get involved. If there was anyone who would have known God’s law of love, it would have been the priest. By nature of his position, he was to be a person of compassion, desiring to help others. Unfortunately, ‘love’ was not a word for him that required action on the behalf of someone else. The next person to pass by in the Parable of the Good Samaritan is a Levite, and he does exactly what the priest did: he passes by without showing any compassion. Again, he would have known the law, but he also failed to show the injured man compassion.
“The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man. Samaritans were considered a low class of people by the Jews since they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not keep all the law. Therefore, Jews would have nothing to do with them. We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion. The ‘Good Samaritan’ saw only a person in dire need of assistance, and assist him he did, above and beyond the minimum required. He dresses the man’s wounds with wine (to disinfect) and oil (to sooth the pain). He puts the man on his animal and takes him to an inn for a time of healing and pays the innkeeper with his own money. He then goes beyond common decency and tells the innkeeper to take good care of the man, and he would pay for any extra expenses on his return trip. The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need.
“Because the good man was a Samaritan, Jesus is drawing a strong contrast between those who knew the law and those who actually followed the law in their lifestyle and conduct. Jesus now asks the lawyer if he can apply the lesson to his own life with the question ‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ (Luke 10:36). Once again, the lawyer’s answer is telling of his personal hardness of heart. He cannot bring himself to say the word ‘Samaritan’; he refers to the ‘good man’ as ‘he who showed mercy.’ His hate for the Samaritans (his neighbors) was so strong that he couldn’t even refer to them in a proper way. Jesus then tells the lawyer to ‘go and do likewise,’ meaning that he should start living what the law tells him to do.
“By ending the encounter in this manner, Jesus is telling us to follow the Samaritan’s
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example in our own conduct; i.e., we are to show compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities. We are to love others (vs. 27) regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need. If they need and we have the supply, then we are to give generously and freely, without expectation of return. This is an impossible obligation for the lawyer, and for us. We cannot always keep the law because of our human condition; our heart and desires are mostly of self and selfishness. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, failing to meet the law. We can hope that the lawyer saw this and came to the realization that there was nothing he could do to justify himself, that he needed a personal savior to atone for his lack of ability to save himself from his sins. Thus, the lessons of the Parable of the Good Samaritan are three-fold: (1) we are to set aside our prejudice and show love and compassion for others. (2) Our neighbor is anyone we encounter; we are all creatures of the creator and we are to love all of mankind as Jesus has taught. (3) Keeping the law in its entirety with the intent to save ourselves is an impossible task; we need a savior, and this is Jesus.”
The 2014 headline “Chinese Good Samaritan commits suicide over hit-and-run accusations” tells a story about how an innocent man, a Good Samaritan, tried to help someone in trouble but ended up being accused of causing the tragedy by the family of the injured, and demanded financial compensation to pay for the medical bills.
According to Wu Weiqing’s widow, her husband was riding his motorbike on New Year’s Eve in Dongyuan, Guangdong Province, when he came across an elderly man who appeared to have been knocked over. Wu took the man to a local clinic and paid 3,500 yuan medical fees. The eldest daughter of the injured man insisted that, “If he hadn’t hit my father with the motorbike, why would be so kind as to bring my dad to the hospital and pay for his medical expenses himself?” Wu’s widow said, “My husband never imagined that the old man and his family would turn around and insist that he was the one who struck him down and demand that we pay hundreds of thousands of yuan in damages.” Wu’s daughter said her father gave her instructions for his funeral, that “He felt vexed that he himself would be asked for money by the same old man he had helped, and he thought it better to die to prove his innocence rather than drag his family down.”
There are several high-profile attempts by people who claimed to have been hurt or injured to demand or extort money from those who have helped them, innocent helpers or Good Samaritans facing huge financial demands, triggering a heated debate over the country’s morals and law.
There was almost a similar case in 2009 in the northeast city of Tianjin, when a driver
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Xu Yunhe came to the aid of an elderly woman who claimed Xu had hit her. And a court used the argument he would not have helped if he was not responsible and ordered Xu to pay the woman 100,000 yuan.
Wu’s case triggered renewed debate among Chinese social media users over whether the country is turning into a society of bystanders. One wrote this on Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter): “If good people rescue the wounded only to meet this kind of end, how cold and indifferent will this society become?”
It should not surprise all Chinese people when we read this in the most recent headline: “Chinese driver who hit nine-year-old with car ‘killed’ her to avoid high compensation bill” from SCMP December 8, 2017. The suspect is quoted as saying he murdered the girl because he was genuinely worried about the law that can order him to pay the victim enormous medical costs.
It is no small wonder the case of the toddler Wang Yue got the most national and international attention when, in October 13, 2011, the 2-year old was struck by two vehicles on a busy market street in Foshan, Guangdong Province. The gruesome tragedy was captured by a security camera, showing 18 passers-by skirted around her body, ignoring the bleeding child before a scrap picker removed and took her to the hospital where she died a few days later. The closed-circuit television recording was uploaded onto the internet, and quickly stirred widespread reaction in China and around the world. This tragedy triggered a furor across the nation, questioning how such callousness or apathy could occur in contemporary Chinese society. Some blamed it on a descent into an “immoral modern society”. Some blamed it on China’s economic boom and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor that have made changing social values a contentious topic. Many lamented what they see as rampant materialism replacing morals.
China was going through another bout of bitter soul searching about the country’s moral decay, another case of bystanders’ total disregard for a human being. Will a Good Samaritan law to punish passersby who refused to render help to people in need be enough. The public outrage did lead the nearby city of Shenzhen (not far from Foshan) to implement such a law two years later.
Soon there are many “theories” floating around about why today’s Chinese people have become indifferent to tragic events happening right in front of them.
I will not forget my reaction in July 2012 when I first read a “trust” survey done by Tsinghua University’s Media Survey Lab and the “Insight China” magazine from
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June to July 2012. The headline was distressing to me: “No Faith in the Common Man? Survey shows Chinese Increasingly Distrust Others”. They interviewed 1,017 people across China to measure their trust of others: 90% said they trust their parents, 56% their spouse, and 39.1% their siblings. And according to Ju Chunyan, a professor of sociology at Beijing University of Technology, blood relations and marital relations make up the core of trusted individuals. It has to do with a deeper level of intimacy because of blood relations. Chinese people form a deep level of trust with their parents, spouses and siblings. Beyond this, most relationships are based on the “principles of reciprocity”, doing things that are mutually beneficial, like resolving problems together. The rise of shashu 杀熟phenomenon—the act of swindling associates, friends or relatives—and interest-based relationships have a strong impact on human relationships. Ju believes “trust circles” in China appear to be shrinking despite the influence of the market economy which requires building and maintaining a broad social trust, especially in the working world. Overall, China’s society is changing from one of acquaintances to one of strangers, that “Don’t talk to strangers” motif is increasingly becoming the norm, affecting overall level of social trust.
An outsider but one who has married a Chinese woman and has lived in China for more than 10 years has this to say: “The government could, tomorrow, launch a public education campaign encouraging Chinese to care more about their fellow man. Why doesn’t it? To me there are 2 reasons: If the idea of ‘we’re all in this together’ ever caught on some uncomfortable questions might start being asked like, ‘Why doesn’t the government do more to create a true ‘social safety net’ like real socialist countries have’? How could The Party preach about helping others when it obviously has little interest in doing so itself? And, being ever more cynical, how can The Party instruct Chinese to intervene when it sees someone in trouble while espousing its total noninterventionist foreign policy? Where does the ‘it’s sometimes OK to help strangers’ begin and end? I think it’s a debate The Party doesn’t want to have because it might lose control of it and it might go in a direction The Party doesn’t want it to go.”
Another view says that “the most probable cause of this sort of behavior is that the Chinese Communist Party, during the revolution and since, has destroyed the foundations of moral behavior through their ideology of class hatred, materialism, and atheism, and their actions of mass murder, betrayal, and destruction.”
I learned when I was growing up about the difference between Confucius’ and Jesus’ version of the Golden Rule. Confucius’ version predated Jesus by about 600 years, and every Chinese child knew about it by heart: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” Granted Chairman Mao suppressed the teachings of
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Confucius between 1949-1976 because Confucian ethics had dominated and permeated every level of the Chinese society. With the reforms and opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping, Confucianism is very much alive today and all students in China are learning about it. Since the beginning of Chinese history, Confucianism has shaped and molded Chinese thinking and behavior. Is there a good answer to why many Chinese have become so apathetic to fellow human beings in need? To me one of the best answers is one written by Lijia Zhang for the Guardian (UK): “The fundamental problem, in my view, lies in one word that describes a state of mind: shaoguanianshi, meaning don’t get involved if it’s not your business. In our culture, there’s a lack of willingness to show compassion to strangers. We are brought up to show kindness to people in our network of guanxi, family and friends and business associates, but not particularly to strangers, especially if such kindness may potentially damage your interest.”
Will the return of Confuciamism and spread of Christianity with their Golden Rule change how believers think about their fellow human beings, especially those who need our care and love?
This is China.