Saturday, October 12, 2013

They’re Here To Help

I am tired, it was rewarding. Many things kept me going but this one was the best. I was out doing assessments on houses and a mother and her daughter (around 3 years old) were walking down the street coming toward me. The little girl looked at me and then looked up at her mother and said "Mommy they're here to help." After that it was no problem getting motivated.

My brother Jim, retired US Army and then retired again as a health-care executive, is a volunteer with the American Red Cross. Within the past few months he has been to Arizona in response to devastating fires and more recently to Colorado to assist victims of severe flooding. After he returned home from Colorado a week or so ago I sent him an email which said, “You must be tired and it must have been rewarding.” He wrote the above response. I can see the mother and child amidst the destruction, walking down the street toward Jim; I visualize them hand-in-hand getting closer and closer to Jim. I see big eyes in the little girl as she looks at Jim and then her mom and I hear the words, “Mommy they’re here to help.”

When I first read those words I thought, “That ought to be the way we live our lives as Christians, as the Church, to live them in such a way that when people see us they instinctively think and say, “They’re here to help.” ”

I’m afraid that hasn’t always been the case in my own life, I’m afraid that too often I’ve been so blinded by my own agenda or a sense of self-righteousness that I haven’t focused on helping others. It is easy and effortless to get caught-up in the culture and its hot topics and get sucked into them as into a whirlpool. How do I so often forget that I am to love my neighbor as myself? The story of the Good Samaritan is a story Jesus used to illustrate what it means to love one’s neighbor. The Good Samaritan crossed ethnic lines in helping a Jew, in fact he helped a person of another ethnicity which despised his own people, the Jews despised Samaritans.

The Good Samaritan’s help and love was costly; it cost him time and money – two things which our present society worships to the point where we say, “Time is money.” I wonder what other Samaritans thought of his actions? Stupid? A waste of money and time? Did they say, “You should have let his own people take care of him”?  Or maybe, “Let the government, be it national or local, take care of him?”

The Good Samaritan’s help was open ended, when he took the injured man to an inn and paid the innkeeper he told the innkeeper, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.” In other words, the Good Samaritan gave the innkeeper a blank check; when we help people we usually put a limit on what we’re prepared to do.

The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) felt compassion for the injured man. The priest and the Levite walked on the other side of the road when they saw the injured man lying half-dead, but when the Samaritan saw the man he felt compassion. Which side of the road do I walk on? The side of the injured and helpless or the side of those in need?

The man had been stripped of his clothes; the Samaritan cleansed and dressed his wounds – he touched the injured man, then he touched him again, then he touched him again. The Samaritan touched a man from a race that would not touch or eat with Samaritans, he touch a man from a race hostile to Samaritans. Do I choose whose lives I will touch? Do I screen those whom I will reach out to and have compassion on?

The Samaritan put the man on his own beast and brought him to an inn. I wonder what people thought as they saw the Samaritan leading an animal with a half-dead Jew on it? It must have been quite the sight. Perhaps Jews pitied the Jew and perhaps Samaritans couldn’t understand why the Good Samaritan was wasting his time and effort?

The passage says that the Samaritan “brought him to an inn and took care of him.” The Samaritan nurses the injured man. There he is by the bed of the injured man, spoon feeding him, giving him sips of wine, cleaning his wounds, helping him with his bodily functions – the Samaritan is touching the man, and touching him again – his mercy and compassion are up front and personal. He does not pay someone else to nurse the man that first night, he stays by the side of the injured man and cares for him.

As I ponder the above I’m convicted that too often I allow my “personal space” to excuse my lack of care and compassion, I’ll help others when I can but I don’t want to get too close or too inconvenienced.

In pondering Jesus’ story of The Good Samaritan I realize that the story is a story that we think we know but which most of us really don’t know; we gloss over the details, we gloss over the cultural context, and we gloss over what the story should look like in our own lives – we know the story but we don’t know the story. We have been inoculated against the story…I think I’ve been getting annual inoculations.

When people see us coming do they say, “They’re here to help”?