Every so often the news will report about someone who came to the aid of a stranger in dire need. Often the person is referred to as a “good Samaritan” in reference to the parable Jesus told about a Samaritan that helped an injured man.
The story is found in Luke 10:25-37 (NIV); 25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 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. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii 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.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
As a point of reference the Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Usually the Samaritans were looked at as a lower class of people by the Jews. The priests and Levites were in the highest religious class of the day. The parable does not indicate who the injured man was in regards to social standing. It would have been a shock for the teacher of the law to hear that a Samaritan had committed such a kind act.
It has puzzled me to think about the Samaritan not only assisting the man in need but also caring enough to pay for his expenses. Then he indicates a return trip to make sure of the strangers well-being. It is a unique person that will intervene in an emergency situation, it is an even rarer person who will follow-up after the fact. I met such a person some months ago by the name of Jenny Golden.
Jenny was a nursing student when we met. She had just assisted a man who had a heart attack and crashed his truck. There were plenty of bystanders at the scene including one man whose interest was on recording the event on his cell phone. Perhaps he was looking for fifteen minutes of personal fame, he certainly was not willing to help the man in need. Jenny’s resolve and actions is credited for saving the drivers life.
The story does not end there. I thought I knew what compassion was by offering a heartfelt invitation to call me if this nursing student needed someone to talk to. I also prayed for the man I did not know and for his family. But a lesson in true compassion came several days later when I spoke with Jenny and found out she had been visiting the driver and his family in the hospital. This made no sense to me. Why would a total stranger care enough to do such a thing? Not to mention she was busy with her own studies, and a single mom of two active boys.
We all have reasons to justify not getting involved with other people’s problems. To have compassion for someone leads to action. That action is not always well received. Sometimes people will hurt others out of their own pain. Being a neighbor means we love them anyway.
The driver of the truck (Jack) and his family has “adopted” Jenny as part of their family. I had the privilege of attending Jenny’s graduation from nursing school. Also met Jack and his family that day. I’m not sure all the reasons why some people will not stop to help a stranger. I do know one person who did and gained a family in the process. To all those out there who have ever helped a complete stranger in need, know that you are blessed and a blessing to others.
Rev. Burt Schwab