We’ve Been Here For A While

I’ve got to do something to help.  Grandma needs a phone call and prayer.  I can buy less so that others might have more.  I should really connect with my neighbors and open up lines of communication.  Let’s consider the elderly and the vulnerable.  Let’s sit and have a chat with your sister, she was just let go from her job.  Email that teacher and thank him, he’s just great with our kid.

Have you found yourself caught up with that sense of “I should do something” of late?  Have your convictions sounded anything like mine?  This season of pandemic and suffering just beginning to come into view brings with it an accompaniment of needs, voices crying out for help.  You’ve heard them.  You’ve felt the urge to step up, somehow.  We all have.  The 106 group emails and text messages exchanged between neighbors on my street in the last seven days attest to it.  We want to help!

Luke chapter ten, Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, comes to mind at a time such as this.  Put aside the defective motives of the lawyer from the exchange—to put Jesus to the test and somehow seek to justify himself—and we’re still given two extremely clarifying answers to two extremely important questions.  What shall I do, and for whom (Luke 10:25, 29)?

First, what shall I do?  We are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” as we seek to stay on the narrow way which leads to eternal life (Luke 10:27 ESV).  That’s called clarity my friends.  That’s the bedrock.  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replies (Luke 10:28).

But for whom are we to apply this neighborly love—the kind that mirrors the love we have for ourselves?  In answering this crucial question, we’re given the simple story we teach to our 5-year-olds.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, 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, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.  He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.  Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.  And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’” (Luke 10:30-35).

Each passerby saw the half dead man lying by the road.  The one of considerable means—remained clean and occupied.  The one from his own race and creed—unaffected.  The story turns, then, on three simple words regarding the Samaritan outsider—the one with no obligation or expectation.  He.  Had.  Compassion.  They all saw, they all had opportunity.  But one crossed the road, bandaged up, payed a high price, went the extra mile, and followed up.  Unaffected by privilege, expectancy, or anonymity, the Good Samaritan embodied Jesus’ answer to the for whom question.  “Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer, and we, ask (Luke 10:29).  “Who do you see, and see with compassion?  What opportunity beckons your crossing the road?” Jesus answers.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and not just of the sick and suffering.  We’re in a pandemic of loneliness and isolation.  We’re in a pandemic of self-focus.  We’re in a pandemic of mistrust and fear.  We’ve been here for a while—it’s just that we can see it so clearly now.  Feel like you should do something?  Good!  Thank God for compassion; I’ve been calling it conviction of late.

We need the conviction that causes us to reach out to the lonely—those who just need you to remember to call them and pray with them.  They’ve always been there, and those calls have always been super encouraging.  But now, you really know.

We need the conviction that causes us to live within our means and refrain from hoarding or consumerism.  Traveling light and with open hands has always been the most help for others and for the environment.  But now, the big box store brawls have opened our eyes.

We need the conviction that causes us to work for the immobilized neighbor down the block who needs help with errands, and friendship.  They were there a month ago.  But now, you just want to be of service somehow.

Finally, at the point that we often physically can’t see them, we’re seeing our neighbors now.  We’re feeling the compassion.  Is it not palpable at your well-supplied dinner table?  It is at mine.  My hope for us is that we would breathe deeply of these convictions right now, and go out and do something.  Go make the street contact roster, go ring up the isolated, go volunteer at the food bank, go open the checkbook for those that are suffering, go lobby for goodness and justice from the officials, go get down on your knees and beg for God’s help.  This isn’t the time to be a passerby when godly conviction strikes, when you know the right thing to do.  This is the time to see and go.  “When he saw him, he had compassion…” (Luke 10:33).

Maybe later, when this has passed, we’ll take time to reflect and remember.  When we do, may we remember this trial not for its confusion and disappointment, but as that time when we finally saw clearly to embrace godly conviction, to the great good of our neighbors and the glory of God.

– Mitch Fossum

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