Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Roadside reflections

SOME BIBLE STORIES are so familiar that we can miss the riches of what they have to tell—and teach—us. When we hear them, a well-worn Sunday school “lesson” we heard years ago may come to mind, and we settle for that.

Such is the case with the story of the Good Samaritan. Most of us know it so well we automatically think, “Bad guy good, good guys bad.” End of sermon. But there’s plenty more to reflect on if we will pause.

Many of Jesus’s stories were bare bones; like black-and-white drawings in kids’ coloring books, they leave space for us to fill in the blanks. Take the priest and the Levite who famously crossed over the other side when they came across the man lying beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho.

We read of their response in the account in Luke 10 and frown, wondering how religious people could act so callously. After all, we would never do something like that, right?

But what if we speculated on their reasons for stepping aside?

Maybe they were on their way to a very important meeting, one that had serious consequences for many people.

Maybe they thought about stopping for a moment, but figured someone else would coming along soon and so they could leave it to them.

Maybe they were worried that if they touched the victim and he turned out to be dead, they’d be ceremonially unclean—unable to serve God by performing their religious duties.

Maybe they feared for their safety—after all, it could be a trap. The “victim” could have a bunch of confederates hiding behind a nearby rock.

Maybe they believed the man got what he deserved. After all, they were each traveling alone on a dangerous road, but must have decided they were doing so safely, at the best time of day. Maybe they figured the victim must have somehow been careless and drew attention to himself. In other words, his plight was a result of his own poor choices, so why should they be responsible for helping him?

When I pause and put myself in their sandals, I see that I am not quite as morally superior as I like to think. There have been occasions when I have let such thinking guide my response to needy people I have come across on my journey.

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