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Don’t Pass By on the Other Side!

June 2, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 10:30-37 (NRSV)

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Focus

If we want to love like Jesus, then we mustn’t be limited by our privilege. If we’re used to being treated in a special way, this can keep us from attending to the needs, even to the humanity of others. But Jesus shows us another way, the way of the Good Samaritan. This man was not shackled by privilege, unlike those who failed to care for a wounded man. Rather, the Samaritan truly saw the man in need and opened his heart to him. This opening of heart allowed the Samaritan to serve the injured man in a sacrificial way, the way of Jesus. His example challenges us not to be blinded by privilege, but instead to let our eyes and hearts be open to the humanity and needs of others.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion I talked about the role of privilege in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The two religious leaders who did not care for a badly injured man were clearly people of privilege. They had not earned their honored positions as a priest and a Levite. They were given these roles on the basis of their heredity. If privilege is a kind of unearned advantage, something some people have while others do not have it, then the priest and Levite were surely privileged men.

As I read Jesus’s parable, I’m struck by the possibility that privilege was part of what motivated the priest and Levite to “pass by on the other side” rather than caring for the victim along the road. I admitted in yesterday’s devotion that I can relate in the priest and the Levite, though I’m not proud of this. Yes, I am a religious leader, and in that way have something in common with these men. And, though I did not become a pastor as a direct result of my heredity, I was born into a family that valued both faith and education. Many of my forebears were ordained pastors. My family took me to a church that nourished my faith and my leadership. I didn’t earn any of this. So, though I certainly worked hard to become a pastor – these things don’t happen easily in the Presbyterian system – much of what got me to this position was an unearned advantage.

I can also relate to how privilege allows people not to engage with the suffering of others. If you can walk by on the other side of the road, so to speak, and if you’re used to being treated in a special way, it’s easy to ignore victims of injustice and others in need. The priest and Levite in Jesus’s story provide striking examples.

But Jesus presents a compelling alternative in his parable. After the priest and Levite walked by without caring for the injured man, a Samaritan approached. Now, from the first-century Jewish perspective, a Samaritan was not just unprivileged, but “anti-privileged.” He was born into the wrong people who worshiped God in the wrong way. He lived on the wrong side of the tracks. The Samaritan was someone to be looked down upon, not held in honor.

Yet, in Jesus’s story, the Samaritan models a different way of relating to a victim of injustice. Rather than passing by as far as possible from the hurting man, when the Samaritan saw him, he was “moved with pity” (Luke 10:33). So, the Samaritan went way out of his way to care for the wounded man (Luke 10:34-35).

I’m struck here by the fact that the Samaritan saw the injured man in a different way than the priest and the Levite saw him. I’m not talking about literal sight. Rather, the Samaritan saw the victim not just optically, but personally and emotionally. He saw the desperate need of the man. The Samaritan allowed his heart to be open and was moved with pity. This would not have happened if he had quickly walked by on the other side, averting his eyes from the man in need. The Samaritan had to pay attention, first with his eyes and then with his heart.

Privilege allows us to “walk by on the other side.” We can focus on ourselves without paying attention to victims of injustice. But if we want to be people like Jesus, if we want to love as Jesus both taught and acted, then we must learn to overcome the limitations of our privilege. Like the Samaritan, we need to learn to see people truly in their full humanity. And we need to allow our hearts to be moved with compassion. When we let the experiences and sufferings of others penetrate our hearts, we can break free from the limitations of privilege. Then we can begin to love our neighbors, and even our enemies, with the self-giving love of Jesus.

Reflect

What do you think helped the Samaritan to see and have pity on the injured man?

What helps you to see the needs of people and to feel compassion for them?

Act

Ask the Lord to help you feel compassion for someone that you might ordinarily overlook. Be open to how the Spirit might move to you act in love toward that person.

Pray

Lord Jesus, again I thank you for the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Though it is so familiar to me, it continues to speak to me. Or, perhaps I should say that you continue to speak to me through this parable. Thank you.

Lord, I am aware of things in my life that would keep me from seeing and having compassion for people in need. My own privilege is surely one of these things. So I ask you to help me break free from the shackles of privilege. Help me to be like the Samaritan, to see with an open heart the needs of those around me. May my heart lead me to reach out to them in loving servanthood, in imitation of you. Amen.


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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Lead with Respect in Three Easy Steps


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