A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same. (Luke 10:30-37 NLT)
Several years ago, Princeton University studied compassion among its seminary students. The study was set up in a novel way. Students were told that they were in a contest to develop the best sermon for a given text with a cash prize. Half those tested were given the text commonly called the parable of the good Samaritan, the other half were given texts on miracles. Additionally, half were told they had a generous amount of time to walk across campus to the location where the sermon would be judged, and the other half were told that they were already late. Along the route, a man (actor) was placed, who would appear to be suffering and asking for help. The actual study was to see what percentage of students would stop and help or offer to help the man. The authors of the study hypothesized that those students who had meditated on the parable of the good Samaritan would be more likely to demonstrate compassion, regardless of their time frame. What they found was that the text didn’t make any difference, only time did. Students who were in a hurry, failed to stop to assist, many did not even recall seeing an injured man along the way. This is sobering because although this was done on seminary students, I wonder how many of us are so busy that we miss the opportunity for ministry all around us?
Jesus says some fairly scary words in Matthew 25. He pronounces judgement upon people who claim to follow him, but neglect to serve him or even notice him.
Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
Matt 25:44-45 NLT
There is a tendency for contemporary followers of Jesus to overly spiritualize this text. In our contemporary culture where we have allowed massive secularization into the church and less and less of our lives are seen as within the “spiritual realm”, it is easy rationalize ourselves out of responsibility for loving others. Taking care of the disadvantaged, the desperate and the down and out is seen as a role for government or even worse, “everyone is responsible for themselves.”
I believe that the response of those metaphorically called “goats” is a sincere response. They did not see Jesus nor did they recognize His presence among the least of these. There are a lot of possible different reasons for this. Lack of contact with the poor, dehumanization of the unfortunate, inability to recognize Jesus’s identity with the poor, safety concerns and busyness are valid reasons for not seeing the Lord. Yet, the result is disastrous.
For 21st century followers of Jesus, we are busier than any other era on this planet. We too have allowed our busyness and time-dominant schedules to dictate our ability to minister. In the story of the good Samaritan, there are three responses to the man’s pain. The first saw the injured man but kept going. The second saw the man, then went to see him, only to leave him. But the Samaritan (who is described as being despised) saw him, stopped, and served him. This is the definition of love.
Love Begins With Seeing
The Zulu tribe greets using the word “Sawubona”. It literally means “I see you”. It does not mean that I simply visually see you, but that I comprehend that you are a person of dignity and value. Study after study has affirmed that the poor and disadvantaged often feel not only powerless, but invisible. Our ministry begins with seeing others made in the image of God. In order to see, you must slow down and be willing to be interrupted. In fact, reflecting on Jesus’ ministry, particularly as shared by the gospel of Mark, was a ministry built upon interruptions. When was the last time you understood your interruption as a holy interruption?
Love Requires Stopping
The despised Samaritan demonstrated that the value and dignity of the injured man was more important than whatever he had planned. Stopping is a way to demonstrate value. It is one of the reasons that God called His people to celebrate a Sabbath. It honors God to stop our daily activities and responsibilities and focus on Him. In the same way, when we put life on hold and give our attention to someone, particularly someone in need, it shows them value and grants esteem.
Love Requires Serving
The Samaritan could have responded by thinking that he was despised due to his ethnicity, so why should he help. The key is the Samaritan didn’t take his own perspective in consideration, only the benevolence towards the injured. Somewhere, many churches have swallowed the poison that they are only called to love the lovable. That poison directs us to determine if the object of our love is worthy, which is in direct opposition to the good news that God loved us, sacrificed, and served us based upon His love for us, not our goodness. In fact, God’s sacrifice for us demonstrates our inherent value, despite our sinfulness, bitterness, and hatefulness.
I want to challenge you to allow yourself to be interrupted for God’s purposes! SEE, STOP, and SERVE and begin to demonstrate the gospel instead of merely trying to proclaim it. God bless you all