by Joy Oti
I saw a movie recently about two struggling families. The husbands had lost their jobs, and one of the wives could not keep up with the swelling bills, and of course lost her job as well. Things got so bad, the two families had to live in their cars on the streets. Luckily, one of the families got a hotel voucher and left the streets. Nothing was heard about them again. But the other family kept struggling, such that feeding became so impossible, their young son had to steal lunch at school. In fact, they got attacked by mobsters at night, and would have lost their lives. Now that scene made me wonder why anyone would steal from someone living on the streets. I mean, if they had any treasures, apart from their lives, they wouldn’t be on the streets. Then I concluded that if the blind could lead the blind, then the poor could steal from the poor. It’s the case of one person having a little advantage over the other. Such is life!
For days this family didn’t take a bath. They only cleaned up at pubic restrooms. They did everything they could to keep their condition from anyone, lest the authorities be informed, and they lose their children.
As I watched, I could not help but come to terms with the fact that in the midst of plenty, there are some who starved, even unto death. Even though this family lived on the street, they were not entirely invisible. Someone should have noticed them, and reached out to help. But I guess everyone was busy with their own problems and activities, missions inclusive, that they did not notice this family. If someone had taken time to look within, they would have noticed this family. Compassion has eye that sees beyond the ordinary.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one with many facets of truth, but you have to dig in to know this. A young Jewish man who was an expert in the law asked Jesus what he had to do to have eternal life. Jesus asked him what the law said. Of all the laws, he chose that which he believed was the simplest, “love the Lord with all thy heart and mind. And love thy neighbour as thyself”. “Wonderful”, Jesus said, “you are really smart. Well then, go and do what it says, and you shall have eternal life”. But his conscience was pricked, because he knew down in his heart, something was not right. To justify his foolishness, he asked, “Who is my neighbour?” I believe he was expecting Jesus to say, ‘your brothers and sisters”. But as usual, Jesus disappointed him by telling a thought provoking parable.
Jesus told the story of a man who was robbed and left for dead on the street. Two people passed by and did nothing. Note Jesus’ choice of characters; a Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. He could have used a shepherd, a carpenter and a businessman as His characters. But He did not. He chose characters that represented the highest offices in the Jewish community, and one that depicted a class system. What was He trying to say? Well, the Priest was the intercessor between God and the people. He knew exactly what God wanted, and how God wanted it. God communicated His desire and instructions to the people through him. So he very well knew God and the law. The Levite was the next in line. He served in the temple, and carried out rituals nobody else in all of Israel could do. The Levite was strictly under God’s “employment”. So, he too had a good knowledge of God and the law. The Samaritan was a nobody who didn’t share the same heritage and affluence of a Jew, as it was believed. The Jews didn’t think the Samaritans were good enough to relate with, so they had nothing to do with the Samaritans. The traveller’s identity was not revealed. He could have been a Jew or a Gentile. Regardless of who he was, he was half dead and could not identify the people who passed him by. At this point conscience and compassion are put to play. Let me try and figure out what was going on in the minds of the Priest and the Levite. May be, as Priest and Levite of the Holy temple of God Almighty, they were hurrying up to the Temple for worship or to meet the needs of the people. They had to get to their holy duties on time! Give me a break! Well then, the Samaritan was a common man who had no privileged duty, and had all the time in the world, so he had compassion on the man and helped him to an inn, where he spent the night with this broken man as he had him taken care of. Well, Jesus asked who amongst the three men qualified as a neighbour, and the young man answered, “the Samaritan.” Trust me, that answer, simple as it was, was very heavy in the mouth of the Jewish man, for obvious reasons. “Well then,” Jesus said, “go and do likewise”. Ouch! The man must have gasped.
I love the way Jesus humbles certain people who feel they know it all. Jesus’ answer to this young man was a blow below the belt. If you have missed the point of this story, like many do, let me help you here. The point about the story was not necessarily about who helped the injured man. The parable was not referring to the “love your neighbour as yourself’ statement that Jesus made. But it was rather referring to the “who is my neighbour”, that the young man mischievously asked. The story was an indictment on the Jews, who believed they knew the law, but fell short of its expectation.
In this article, the parable about the Good Samaritan is not referenced with regards to the class system. No, as Christians, I believe we know better. The point of reference here is how we can easily forget the work around us, because of the “big deal” in front of us, like the Priest and the Levite. Jesus is thorough, and everywhere He went, He took care of the people in that place before heading out to His next assignment. As Christians, God expects more from us. We should know better than the unsaved morally inclined man or woman. Our love for humanity should go deeper, and our search engines from the inside out.
Think about heaven, and walking into a lovely garden, and a man calls out to you and says you look familiar. By the time you start a conversation with the person, you found out that he lived on the street three blocks from you, and you saw him but never noticed them. And then you find out how he died: it was on a certain day you remember. You had your beautiful unique bags packed for a trip to Cambodia, and headed for the bus stop. You were so excited you were going on a mission’s trip to do the Lord’s bid. And then the picture flashes back to you. That day as you waited at the bus stop in excitement, you did see a man on the floor, a few yards from you, writhing in pain. But you didn’t notice him, because you were headed for a very important trip. And then in conclusion he says, “thirty minutes after your bus left, I saw myself in heaven and knew I had died”. Sad, isn’t it?
We actually need the help of the Holy Spirit not to be oblivious of the lonely and destitute around us, because I believe it is sometimes an innocent error. So as we go about our missionary activities, let us pray that our eyes be opened to see “them’ that are amongst us and do the needful, being the Jesus that they need.