June 14, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture: Luke 10:30 (NIV)
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.”
Jesus centers the needs of people who are vulnerable. Do we?
Yesterday, I wrote on how the passage of the Good Samaritan invites us to examine our own intentions so that we might move more deeply into the work of anti-racism. Today, I want to continue that train of thought with the next verse in the passage. In verse 29, we heard “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
To this question, Jesus replies as he often does by telling a story. He starts by setting a gruesome scene. He describes a traveler who is attacked by robbers. The robbers took off all the man’s clothes, leaving him naked. Then they beat him to the point that he was half dead.
I’d like us to do the hard work of actually picturing this scene. To do so, I’d like you to think about an actual man you know and love. Maybe he’s your brother or your uncle, your husband or your son. I’ll pick my husband.
Now, think of the man you love traveling on a solo road trip across the U.S. At some point in his journey, he’s mugged, his car is stolen, he’s stripped naked and beaten on the side of the highway. As painful as it is, let the image sink in and let yourself feel whatever it brings up.
Now, picture another person who stops on the highway to help your man. This person sees him and they go to him, putting them in their own car and taking them to a nearby hospital.
A question for us: who did we picture as the robbers and who did we picture as the helper? What might that reveal to us about our own biases?
A painful, and in some ways also healing, part of my own journey in becoming less racist has been admitting how many biases I actually have. I have many deeply seeded assumptions that are tucked away and much un-learning still to do. I’ve also had to come to grips with the fact that I have (at least metaphorically) been the vulnerable traveler dependent on someone else’s help. None of us are above vulnerability.
Back to Jesus. When I picture Jesus talking to the lawyer, I wonder if he’s sort of internally screaming. Like, HELLO, MR. LAWYER, THERE’S NO TIME TO JUSTIFY YOURSELF, PEOPLE I LOVE ARE VULNERABLE ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! GO TO THEM!
Over and over again, Jesus centers the vulnerable and directs the faithful to extend mercy and compassion toward them. It’s a central part of what it means to be in the family of God. But, crucially, Jesus does not ask his followers to be saviors—to get wrapped up in our own needs or to seek to justify ourselves. No, Jesus asks instead for us to care about what he cares about, to join in the work God’s already doing, and to center the vulnerable.
Now, picture with me that the traveler on the side of the road is a different race than the man you pictured earlier, but still someone you know. My husband is white, so I will picture a Black man I know. When you picture this second man, notice what happens to your affect. Are you just as bothered, just as desperate to go to him? Or do you feel somehow more removed? Take note of how well you are able to empathize with someone who you might not feel as close to and who is a different race than you.
Jesus centers the vulnerable, which means we should too.
What was it like to picture different men you knew as vulnerable? Can you think back to a time in your own life that you were the “vulnerable traveler”? How did others come to you? How did Jesus come to you?
Thank someone that showed you mercy when you were in a vulnerable place. And then work to extend mercy to someone else this week.
God, thank you for making your priorities clear. You center the vulnerable and the marginalized. Thank you for helping me grow in faithfulness each day to that work in my own life and in the world. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Good Samaritan at Work—Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself (Luke 10:25-37)