Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

One month ago, we stood staring at a painting of a bleeding, dying man on the roadside. Jesus painted a priest walking toward him, but he walked right past him. He even walked to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t be anywhere near a dying man. But there was another man on the way. He was a Levite.

Levites made their living by taking care of the Temple. He did a little better than the priest. He walked over to get a closer look at the dying man. Maybe out of curiosity, maybe out of compassion. At least he came to check on the guy. But either fear or a feeling of helplessness hurried him to the other side of the road.

Both good guys were so shocked at this man’s misery that they wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the road. They walked to the other side to get as far away from him and his hurt as they could. If I have to choose, I’d rather be like the Levite than the priest. But Jesus still has one more paintbrush in His hand.

The last character is much different thanthe first two. Not as well dressed. Not aswell liked. He was a Samaritan. To say that the Jews hated the Samaritans is like saying the sun is warm. Slight understatement. The Samaritans were half Jew, half Gentile. In the civil war, they would have worn blue and gray and been shot from both sides.Nobody loved the Samaritans except otherSamaritans, and thankfully, Jesus.

You could hear the jeers when Jesus said Samaritan. They saw him riding in on his black horse, wearing his black hat as he petted his black cat. They just knew they just met the villain. What was the Samaritan going to do to the dying man? Would hefinish him off? Would he steal what littlehe had left? How dare the Samaritan hurt a hurting man.

They were standing there with their mouths open when Jesus continued, “He came where the man was.” “Well, yeah. Probably gonna rob the guy.” He saw him, and he had compassion. “That’s preposterous. Samaritans can’t be the good guys. They’re the villains.”

He dismounted from his donkey, got down in the dirt, and bandaged him to stop the bleeding. He poured in his own oil to ease the pain of somebody else’s open wounds; poured in his own wine to heal somebody else’s bruises. Then he cradled him in his arms, lifted him up on his own donkey, and brought him down the road to an inn. He paid out of his own pocket for room and board and left his credit card at the from desk just to take care of a stranger.

This Samaritan was headed somewhere, but he canceled his meeting, lost a day’s pay, and stained his own saddle with a stranger’s blood because he had compassion on hurting humanity. God, give us a love for people. Help us to want to help people.

We think what they thought. Surely our neighbor is the one we go to church with. The people who like us because they’re just like us. But Jesus is calling us to crucify our racism and care about people who look different—who are different—than us.

Our neighbor is anyone helpless who needs our help. Sometimes it’s helping someone grieve after a loss. Take them a plate of cookies and give them your phone number in case they need someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s helping rake someone’s leaves or shovel their snow after they’ve had surgery.

They might sit behind you in church or stand in line behind you at Kroger. When we see them, let’s not just say, “Poor thing. What a shame,” and walk by on the other side. Let’s go where they are, open up some compassion, and ask them, “How are you? Is there anything I can do to help? What can I pray for?”

This story stretches me because there is a blurred line between compassion and common sense. May the compassion we feel in our heart move our hand to help our neighbor. God, give us a love for people. Help us to want to help people.«