Saturday, July 09, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Luke 10:30-37

Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’

Just like me

What makes people more likely to help each other? What makes them more likely to give money to the food bank or work with at a homeless shelter? What moves people to step out of the crowd to help someone escape the burning car or to help the person who is ill or a drunk who has fallen by the curb? 

Social scientists have well-demonstrated that all of us are more likely to help someone with whom we identify, with those who are like us in some way. The person wearing the Cubs jersey is more likely to help a person who is wearing a Cubs jersey than someone who is wearing a White Sox jersey.

Connection matters. The more I see the person in need as someone who is connected with me, who is like me in some way, the more likely I am to help. If they are from a different culture, a different race, a different nationality, a different political persuasion, a different lifestyle or profession, we are less likely to help.

Identification matters. So why does the Good Samaritan crawl into the ditch and help the beaten man? This guy was from Jerusalem, a Jew. The Samaritan was not Jewish. Jews and Samaritans loved to hate each other.  They didn’t trust each other. Being a Samaritan among Jews was like wearing a Hillary T-shirt at a Trump rally.

The others, the priest and a Levite, in other words a pastor and a religion professor, they should have helped him. They shared his ethnic group and his religion, but they didn’t identify with him.

Perhaps they blamed the guy for getting beaten up … the way all of us sometimes blame others for their problems to avoid caring. After all, getting beaten up was his own fault. Apparently, he was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho by himself.  Dumb. Everybody knew dens of robbers were common along that road.

So why … did the Samaritan get involved? Why was he moved to compassion when others were not?

Maybe he was a just a guy alone in a land that was not his. Maybe he felt the threat of being a stranger, alone, and a little afraid. Maybe he saw the guy in the ditch and saw a vulnerable human being, someone just like himself, who needed help, safety, protection.

Maybe he was simply aware of a common humanity he shared with this guy, despite the differences of race, nationality and religion that separated them. Maybe all those differences didn’t matter to him because he saw a human soul, created in the image of God, who needed the same respect and care he craved.

On Monday, I stood across the street from the decrepit, seedy, hotel that sits along tired strip of asphalt in my home town. The hotel has long been a sagging, two-story block of sun-bleached bricks. It burnt out a couple of weeks ago, an electrical fire endangering a mother and her infant twins asleep in the upstairs apartment.

When I was 17 I saw a man face down in the snow a block away from the old hotel. He lay a few yards from the railroad tracks, obviously stone-cold drunk. I didn’t know his name, never saw him before or since.

But on a freezing December night I parked the car and half-dragged this guy to the hotel, up a flight of stairs and deposited him on a moldy mattress in his dingy room. Who knows? This may have been the best moment of my life … because I saw the humanity and need of a guy whose life I’m sure I will never understand. I just saw him as a human being in need … just like me.

Maybe, just maybe, what Jesus calls to do in these times is to quit looking at all the ways we are different, to look beyond all the things that can and do divide us … and to look instead at our common humanity, our common need, understanding that we all have fears and hopes and the desire to know love and experience joy.

Perhaps we just need to look for the common humanity especially of those who are different from us, those we fear, whether that is Muslims or immigrants, cops or gang members, blacks or whites, Republicans or Democrats, Americans and foreigners.

With Jesus, there is no us and them … only us.

The Good Samaritan didn’t see a Jew in that ditch, a stranger, a rival. He saw a human being … with needs and hopes, just like himself. 

Pr. David L. Miller

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