In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by 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.” …
It’s so easy to “pass by on the other side.” Don’t get involved. It’s not your problem. You aren’t responsible. How often do we look the other way so we don’t have to witness suffering or injustice or sorrow? If we act like we don’t see a hurting person then we can continue on our way without stepping into the messy business of helping. We do it when confronted with the injustice of racism: I’ll just look the other way… it’s not my fault… I’m not responsible. Or what about the trauma of domestic violence: I’m not really sure what happened… that’s their business… it’s sad, but what can I do? And so, we pass by on the other side.
Jesus chose the characters in this story on purpose. The two people who pass by without helping the injured man are not just ordinary travelers; they are people who should know better than to leave someone to die on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite. A pastor and a church leader. Respected and responsible people. Of course, they aren’t responsible for the man’s injuries, but they become responsible for his care. The moment they see him bruised and bloody, stripped naked and left for dead, they are called by God to show compassion and, at the very least, to recognize the man’s suffering. But instead, they pass by on the other side.
Why do we do things like that? Of course, there are times when we get it right, when we kneel down to help someone in need, but human history and each of our lives is littered with missed opportunities to love our neighbors in moments of need. Maybe we are afraid that what happened to them may happen to us. Maybe we are too stingy, too busy or too self-absorbed to care about a fellow human’s life. Maybe we think those who suffer somehow deserve their fate, and we don’t want to contaminate ourselves with whatever led to their troubles. Maybe it’s just easier to pass by on the other side than to get involved. Maybe these excuses outweigh the compassion in our hearts when we hear of people suffering because of the color of their skin or when we see evidence of abuse or when we learn of a neighbor’s financial hardship or when we witness any other sort of need. Jesus told this parable to cause people who think they lead good, God-fearing lives to rethink how we treat our neighbors before giving in to the temptation to pass by on the other side.
Father of Compassion, thank You for loving me more than I deserve and for lifting me up when I am in need. Teach me to love better. Fill my heart with compassion for those who are hurting so I can love the way Jesus asks me to. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian