(Photo by |Shrued-Creative Commons)
How would you respond to this man?
Most will actually try to avoid eye contact, though in most circumstances that’s not needed since he is likely to avoid eye contact with you out of shame.
Many will see a man like this and cross the road.
While I’ve never experienced homelessness, I’ve ministered to those who homeless a great deal over the years and I’ve watched people ignore and actively avoid homeless people time after time. A lot of folks initial reaction would be – “Go get a job.” They would pass a judgement on him without knowing his story and without knowing the hopelessness he’s feeling. He can’t even get a shower and clean clothes when he wants. How will he go get a job? Maybe he has some kind of mental illnesss.
How would you respond to this man? Would you help him? Would you smile at him? Or would you try to avoid and ignore him?
Jesus gives us an indication of what he expects from those who are his disciples.
Everything in bold is my emphasis
25On 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?”
27He 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’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]” 28“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins[e] 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?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
In this set of scriptures the lawyer asks Jesus what he needs to do to have eternal life? Jesus responds and asks what does the law say. The lawyer repeats the two greatest commandments essentially Love God first and formost with everything you have and then Love your neigbor as yourself. Then he tries to find a loophole to make sure he didn’t have to love everyone that way by asking who his neighbor was.
Jesus of course knew this and came up with the most uncomfortable kind of neigbor any good Jew at the time could have considered. He used a choice that if one of them had moved into a Jewish neigborhood, the Jews would have insisted that the neigborhood was in rapid decline and that property values were going to fall. He chose to talk about a Samaritan.
Notice what the religious folks did about the man who had been robbed and beaten. They passed by on the other side. I suspect like a lot of people do to our homeless friend in the picture. They probably pretended not to see him – though the text doesn’t tell us that.
The Samaritan though had mercy and showed kindness. He went out of his way to care for this stranger. He put the stranger on his own animal which probably meant he had to walk. He took him to an Inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him, promising to pay any outstanding balance when he returned.
How far out of our way will we go to show love and kindness to people? Will we help those who are less fortunate? It’s not hard for me to be kind to homeless people. You can see more about that here. However, I am still challenged when I go to my Grandmother’s nursing home. I just want to get out fast. But I’m having to try to learn to love and be more patient. I got a great lesson on that a couple of weeks ago as I was at the nursing home just before church time. The residents were getting excited fifteen minutes before it was supposed to start. Why? It wasn’t the church service. It was the love they received from the loving couple that comes every week to bring the Word and some worship to these neglected people. They anticipate the arrival of this couple, because they are loved. I blogged more on that story here.
Let’s leave our friend the homeless guy a moment. Are we loving those we are in close proximity too. What about the kid in the neigborhood who’s parents don’t seem to care about him? What about the elderly lady down the street who is having to choose between paying her electric bill, paying for her medicine, or buying groceries? What about the co-worker who is a single mom and is struggling?
Of course most of our churches in the west aren’t doing much better than the person who walks by. They’ll often complain about not having enough money in the budget to meet the needs of people who do really need help. But they have enough to put on the Sunday service
Scripture makes it clear that we will be judged on how we deal with “our neighbors.” We could proably all stand back and do some self inspection. I know I can and I am. Now back to our homeless friend, how would you be neighbor to him?