To See or Not to See: Who Are You in the Story of the Good Samaritan?

“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’” (Luke 10:30 NIV).

Can you see yourself as one of the characters in the story of the Good Samaritan? The character you identify with may vary based on your mood and your day’s agenda. Surely all of the characters in the biblical story do really see the neighbor in need, but the choice to see or not to see tells a lot about their motivations. 


NOT SEEING YOUR NEIGHBOR

Do you sometimes see someone, but pretend you don’t? It may be because that person seems to be potentially dangerous, plagued with mental health issues, or concocting a sob story to make you feel guilty for not giving money.

That’s not the man in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan. That man has been robbed and beaten. He’s barely alive. He may not even know that you are passing by. 

Or could it even be the person who talks your ear off, the person you don’t have time to be bothered by? You could choose not to be available and not to answer their call. Who will know?

If you choose to “not see” him, it’s possible that no one will know except you. So who can blame you for not stopping to help?


SEEING YOUR NEIGHBOR

In the story, Jesus makes it obvious that all three neighbors really do see the man who has been left to die and in need of rescue. But seeing holds a different meaning in the story.

To see your neighbor may mean that you take the time to look in his direction, even when you know there’s a potential need. Could it even be the one who has treated you wrongly? You choose to act kindly and treat them the way you would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12), even when they have treated you poorly once again.

If you choose to “see” him, it’s also possible that no one will know about it except you. So it may just be the best time to stop and help.

Learning to see is generally a by-product of learning to hear. When you hear God’s voice clearly and intimately and start to display His character, you may discover you finally see your neighbor and yourself differently. You love. Love doesn’t act in order to be seen. Love often happens when no one else ever knows.

 

WHICH CHARACTER ARE YOU?

An expert in the law had asked the questions, What must I do to inherit eternal life? and Who is my neighbor? As usual, Jesus answered with a parable. A man was robbed, beaten, and left half dead. Have you ever played the part of one of these characters?

 
1.     The injured man: This man is the first character in the story. He’s going about his business and finds himself in need of help. You may be that man. You’re the injured one—too weary to even know how to ask for help, but you’d sure appreciate it if someone came to your rescue. You wonder if God knows you’re at the end of your rope. Maybe you’ve been crying out for help, and now you’re done. Maybe this is the end after all.
 
2.     The robbers: The robbers are the next group of characters in the story. Certainly you wouldn’t be one of those. Of course you wouldn’t rob anyone; you’re known as a good-deed doer. You do things perfectly and you have no mercy for robbers. You step right on top of people who are doing bad things. You stamp out that bad behavior. You’ll never be that person taking things (or credit for things) that don’t belong to you—leaving the other person wounded. Of course that’s not you.
 
3.     The priest and the Levite: The next two characters are religious. They have lots of good work to do. They don’t have much time to stop and see what your problem is. When you try to tell them what’s wrong, they’ll be too busy telling you about all that they are doing. Now if the high priest were around, surely he’d stop and help you, right? But today is not your lucky day. He’s at the temple, and you won’t get help from these two. They don’t have time to see what’s wrong with you.
 
4.     The Samaritan: The last active character in the story was the Samaritan. He took pity on the injured man. He saw him as a man in need and cared tenderly for him by bandaging his wounds, taking him to a place to recover, and providing all the expenses to do so. The Samaritan didn’t let prejudices get in the way. He treated him with great dignity. He saw the value in the life left in the man, and he knew that it was his responsibility to care for the one in need.

When Jesus asked, Which of these three do you think was a neighbor? the expert answered, The one who had mercy on him.

In The Care Effect, David Crosby states, “You never know what burden you will end up bearing when you decide to love.” Loving might mean that you stand and look into the eyes of your neighbor—both the one who lives right next door and the one who has mistreated you. Love does not mean that you are a doormat, but it does mean that you love, even when you receive no love in return.

As Christian women, it’s important to hear God’s voice and to see how we can be a neighbor. This week in the course Women Leaders from the Past, participants will hear the story of Catherine Booth, who listened carefully to God and saw her neighbors.

Catherine knew that it would not be easy to stand up against alcoholism, but she did it anyway. She was concerned about the victims of addiction. She also wanted to protect the young daughters of widows and factory workers. Like the Good Samaritan, she chose to help, even though it caused her hardship.

Catherine and her husband, William Booth, founded The Salvation Army in 1865. They chose to love the whole person. They looked at the needs of their neighbors and acted.

Luke 10:30–37 tells you that you can be a neighbor to someone in need. Will you see him, and be his neighbor?


Claudia Johnson lives near Birmingham, Alabama, where she hopes to be a real neighbor.