“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)
Which of the characters in this story do you identify with most?
The traveler left for dead, truly in need of a neighbor? The robbers who chose their own well-being at the expense of a fellow human? The priest and Levite, who prioritized their religious obligations and expectations over the needs of another? Or the Samaritan, the political outsider, shunned and avoided, who perhaps needed compassion himself, and so was able to extend it to another?
We’ve all more than likely played each of these roles at some point in our lives, though we’re most likely blind to the way we rob and ignore others.
A few observations:
I’ve always considered the robbers the “bad guys” in this story. But the robbers are not the only characters who leave the man dying on the side of the road. Perhaps the Levite and priest do equal harm in their silence, in their observation of religion over compassion.
Most of us are probably not guilty of beating people and leaving them for dead.
But there’s a GOOD chance we are crossing to the other side. Looking the other way. Blinded by our religious rules and even social norms.
Could the rules we’re expected to follow keep us from risking our religious purity to go near hurting people? Hurting people are messy. They might delay or even prevent us from serving in our church functions.
Or maybe we’re just so committed to our church functions, our tight communities pull us to the other side of the road so we never interact with people who’ve found themselves in ditches?
Could it be possible that our silence and insulation, as individuals and as a collective body of Jesus followers, is causing just as much harm as those who seek to hurt and destroy?
Questions for discussion or personal reflection:
- Heart Check: How do I respond to people in need?
- Does my “road” ever take me by hurting people? How insulated am I from the poor, the distressed, the outcasts? Is it possible that my entire life is arranged so that I’m “crossing on the other side”?
- What role does “loving my neighbor” play in my life and decisions?
I deeply want “loving my neighbor” to be at the top of my list of filters, influencing all of our family’s decisions. I want to ask, about every aspect of our lives, “Does this free me to love my neighbor as myself?”
For me, asking and answering this question has meant saying no to good things sometimes. Sometimes it means saying YES to my family first, loving them before pursuing opportunities that just benefit me. But other times it means saying no to certain things for our family, because we want to have time and resources available for those who cross our path who’ve found themselves in ditches. And sometimes it means standing with people my church friends (or even bosses) wouldn’t necessarily approve.
Who can you be a neighbor to, today?
This summer I’m sharing some of my own lessons and thoughts from a Bible study I wrote with my friend Stacey and did with a group of (amazing) women last Fall. This 8 week study, The Call of Jesus, is available for free here or by clicking the “Free Bible Studies and Resources” link in my blog header. If you’re looking for a Bible study to do yourself or with friends this Fall, check it out!