Tuesday, October 12, 2021

See. Feel. Act.

Jesus was a master teacher, and one of his most often employed teaching techniques was telling stories. These short stories utilize people, objects, and situations that we are all familiar with – things like farming, working, weddings, buildings – and then uses them to make a spiritual application. These stories are often called parables and some of them are so powerful that they are familiar even to people who have never read the Bible. Everyone has heard of the lost sheep, the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the pearl of great price.  All of these familiar phrases have their origin in one of these stories of Jesus. They are really quite remarkable and if you haven’t read them you need to!  

I recently taught on one of these parables, the Good Samaritan. It’s a story of man traveling a treacherous road and is robbed, stripped of his clothing, and left for dead on the side of the road. Three people pass by, but only one stops to offer aid. The first two are known to be religious people, a priest and a Levite, who certainly know what they should do but, for reasons Jesus never reveals, they pass by on the other side. The third man is a Samaritan, a race of people not regarded as especially pious and, for the most part, despised by those who were (or thought they were). This is the man who stops and cares for the victim. He is the one who is good. To the original Jewish audience, the fact that the hero of the story is a Samaritan would have been utterly shocking, for Samaritans and Jews were notorious enemies. The point of the story is that the command to love our neighbor extends to everyone in need, not just to people we like or agree with.

The parable is quite simple. It destroys any boundaries we create that deem some people worthy of our love and others unworthy. We all know that we should love everyone. So why don’t we?

As I contemplated this story I noticed that there was a critical disconnect in the priest and the Levite that wasn’t present in the Samaritan. As Jesus tells the story he notes that all three saw the same thing – a man on the side of the road obviously in need, but only the Samaritan felt compassion.  And there was the critical difference. The priest and the Levite saw but didn’t feel. The Samaritan saw and felt.

Seeing people in need is not that difficult. Everyday we find ourselves walking alongside people who are hurting – at work, at school, at the store, at church. There are literally dozens of people that we encounter weekly who need something that we can help with. So why don’t we help more often, if at all?

Perhaps there is the same disconnect in our lives as well – we see but don’t feel. Either we have become so callous to pain that we no longer are moved to compassion or maybe we turn our heads so quickly and pick up our pace that we easily dismiss the hurting people around us. In any case, I think we need to work on our ability and willingness to be compassionate. For only when the Samaritan sees and feels does he act.

And isn’t that what real love is? Seeing, feeling, and acting. May God help us stop and offer help to those wounded and hurting on the treacherous road of life. Chances are, you’ll come by one today.

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