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. Luke 10:31-33 NIV.
As a child, I remember acting out the Good Samaritan play in children’s church. As a boy, being one of the robbers was a lot of fun to pretend to beat up one of the other kids and leave him on the road. To be the man who got beat up took a lot of acting and being overly dramatic. The next character to be chosen to portray was the Good Samaritan. He is the hero of the story. Nobody wanted to be the priest or the Levite. Now that I am older…I like being the narrator – Jesus.
As I have grown older, I have studied and preached the parable on several occasions. Loving God and loving your neighbor with all of your heart have been themes churches have incorporated into their vision and mission statements. To me, the whole story hinges on the lawyer wanting to “justify” himself which prompted him to ask for the boundary of love – “Who is my neighbor?”
Commentators have unpacked why the priest and Levite did not help. Jesus gave no explanation for their moving to the other side of the road. Their actions were contrasted with the Samaritan’s move to compassion. We can only guess that religious learning did not lead to compassion, but stayed in the realm of the hypocritical lifestyle. Plainly, they should know what should be done but chose to do the opposite.
I learned a little bit of what hypocrisy feels like the other night.
I drove a sports team on my school bus to another school for an evening field trip. If there are restaurants nearby, I take my computer and do some writing while I wait several hours for the games to finish. One restaurant was close enough for me to walk to it. I put in my earbuds and started the ten-minute walk. I saw a homeless person laying on the side of the road with their back to me. As I drew closer, I saw discarded items such as a purse, some clothing, and an empty Domino’s pizza box. I thought, “somebody had chosen to feed her”. Since her back was to me, I passed by undetected and made it to the restaurant.
On my way back, I went to a convenience store and got a snack before heading back to the bus. I started to cross the road to the same side where the bus was located when I noticed the homeless lady again. One of the reasons she chose that specific spot on the side of the road was the illumination from the light pole. Then it happened. I moved back to my side of the road – opposite the homeless lady and my bus. The only way to get to my bus was to pass by her and here I was on the opposite side.
I would like to tell you that compassion welled up inside me…but it didn’t. A flurry of “justifications” flew through my mind, none of which I am proud to share with you, but here they go. “It’s not good for a man to approach a woman at night like that. She will probably ask for money, and I don’t usually give away money. I had a snack in my hand, but I had bought that for myself. The conversation may take longer than I have to give, Isn’t there someplace else she can choose to just lie on the ground? How does a person get to the place where they are helpless? Why am I critical and judging?”
I walked by reading my phone looking as though I was engaged in a conversation. To be true, I was. God and I were dialoguing. I was losing. He brought to mind the Good Samaritan story and showed “Me” walking on the opposite side of the street. Yep, that’s me at that particular real-life moment.
I wish I could say the story ended differently, It did not. I went back to the bus and read some more. She stayed the rest of the night underneath the lamppost.
I know I can not stop for every homeless person, but I don’t have to walk on the other side of the street either. God and I are still talking. I am repenting, He is forgiving.
Are there compassionate situations in which you justify not being engaged? Do you have a neighbor in need that you don’t have time to help? Do you give money instead of the investment of your time and emotions? Are you able to recognize the hypocrisy in your own talk and walk? Love is an open-armed boundary that exposes the warmth of the heart. Crossed arms and closed hands communicate in any language.
I think a renewed commitment to loving God with all of my heart and loving my neighbor as myself is one good step forward. Today God, I love you. Help me to love others as I do myself.
Blessings Love y’all