Passing by on the Other Side

“In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” ” (Luke 10:30-37, NIV)

When Jesus told this parable over two thousand years ago, he was addressing the question of a “lawyer” who was trying to take the easy way out by insinuating he did not know who his neighbor was. Jesus pointed out that whosoever was in need that he came across was indeed his neighbor, and that we should do whatever is in our power to aid that person.

Unfortunately nowadays, a lot of folks prefer to just “pass by” when someone needs help, leaving them to whatever plight that afflicts them.

I hear people who are hurting (they are members of a larger church in the city) and they are not even strangers as the man in the story of the Good Samaritan. Each week as they go to Church they rub shoulders with other Christians who are totally unaware of the pressing need of the hurting person. At least I would like to think they are unaware. If that is the reason, perhaps we need to open our eyes and care for our brothers and sisters!

How does a professing Christian “pass by on the other side” especially with fellow church members?

I think there is a darker reason why many of us pass by on the other side.

One possible reason is Cultural Christianity. I read a devotion written by an American lady in Hong Cong who was telling of her experience in a Bible Study when Cultural interpretations flavored the understanding of the Bible.

A quote from her devotion;   “In the discussion time, I said that different cultures emphasize the verses that best match their cultural values. As an example, I mentioned that, with regard to money, the Filipino Christians I worked with take seriously Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:42 to give to him who asks, because their culture places a high value on generosity. We Americans, however, are more likely to quote Paul that those who won’t work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). I finished by saying that both verses need to be considered.

“The speaker was quick to inform me that Paul’s verse was the more important of the two and that anyone who took the other verse seriously was wrong. I doubt she realized how well she proved my point. Later, when we were nibbling snacks and chatting, a couple of the other Bible study women told me they agreed with me. Different cultures do emphasize the verses that best support their cultural values and tend to ignore the rest.”

Is that what God wants us to do with his Word? Is the Bible nothing more than a smorgasbord of verses where we pick what suits our cultural tastes and leave the others?

After reading that devotion, I started examining my beliefs in this matter.

It seems that the “Western” mentality does lean heavily towards the Thessalonians verse with a very unhealthy dose of judgementalism. I have heard many around me excuse themselves from helping a person because they smoked, or _(insert sin)_, or ? The rational being if they weren’t sinning….

Then there is the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity preachers whose philosophy has crept into our thinking, that says if you are not being Blessed, you need to get right with God. This gives the Traveler on the “Samaritan Road” the perfect excuse to pass on the other side.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan, but we can’t see the People around us who are wounded and hurting on the side of the road. Or we choose not to notice them!

Let’s find the Life Application

  1. Make a list of people whom you know that, for whatever reason, need help.
  1. Really get to know the people in Church. It seems to be the same in a Church of 15, 50, or 150. We really don’t know many (if any) very well. We spend very few minutes visiting with others in Church. After all, we have to go home and … We are totally unaware of those who are crying for help.
    1. You have to spend time talking. You have to ask questions.
    2. You have to listen with spiritual ears.
    3. You have to linger before and after services to have time. The Preacher frowns on chit-chat during the sermon!
  1. Decide if the Spiritual Applications apply to you. The story in Luke does not tell us the reasons that the Priest and Levite passed by. Do you think the reasons make a difference? What are your reasons for passing by? Why did Jesus tell this story? Why did God include it in the Bible?
  2. Talk to trusted Spiritual leadership and find help for the hurting. Do it yourself if possible, but otherwise, bring help to the side of the road.

In conclusion, (from the author of the devotion I referred to above),

I’ve learned that, if I’m to please God, I’d better stop worrying about claiming my rights and start fulfilling my responsibilities.

I’ve learned I don’t pray nearly enough for those around me.

I’ve learned I shouldn’t hold my earthly citizenship in such high regard that I forget where my more important citizenship lies.

I’ve learned I want my Christianity to be shaped by the Bible—all of it—not by my culture.

What about you?

As for me and my house, we will Serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

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