FOR ME, ONE of the most striking images from the racial unrest of the last 18 months came from my homeland—a picture of a British Black man who went to support a Black Lives Matter demonstration carrying an injured, white counter-protestor out of a crowd to save him from further harm.
Patrick Hutchinson explained why he stepped in to protect the guy who was being attacked at the June 2020 demonstration in London: “Just because somebody’s up to no good, doesn’t mean you have to kill them.”
Hutchinson’s actions reminded me of a similar event in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1996. There, a Black teenager stepped in to protect a white man from demonstrators who thought he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. “I knew what it was like to be hurt,” said Keshia Thomas. “The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me.”
Both Thomas and Hutchinson were bringing the parable of the Good Samaritan to life in ways that are a challenge to us all in these starkly divided times. They didn’t stand around and debate whether the person “deserved” their help—they just saw someone in need and stepped in.
Why did the first two passers-by in the famous story Jesus told cross the road and leave the wounded man? One explanation is that they may have thought he was dead, and touching a corpse would have made them ceremonially unclean, keeping them from performing their “religious duties.”
Another possibility is that they may have thought the robbery victim had brought things on himself—after all, that road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous, so no one in their right mind would travel it alone. If you’re going to be stupid, don’t expect anyone to help you out.
Maybe he had been careless. Or maybe he had been due to travel with others but they had backed out at the last moment, leaving him no choice but to head out solo. We can be very quick to fill in the blanks in situations where the details aren’t clear.
It’s also instructive that Jesus described the injured man as having been stripped of his clothes. In other words, there was no outward sign of who he was or where he came from that could cause someone to choose to ignore him. All the good Samaritan could see was the man’s wounds, and he was moved to help.
Many of us could learn a thing or two here. When someone’s hurting, it’s not the time to debate the thinking that may have gotten them into a perilous situation. Nor to determine whether they are “our people.” We should just see where they are hurting, and go see how we might help.