Elijah Friedeman, The Millennial PerspectiveRecently, while speeding down the interstate at 70 miles an hour, I saw a man walking down the side of the road. My conscience twinged slightly, but I reasoned that by the time I could stop, I would have left the walker in the dust. Plus, I had three other people in the car, as well as band equipment worth thousands of dollars.
A half-mile down the road, just over a rise, I saw a truck pulled off to the side, with several people in it - one of them looking expectantly down the road in the direction of the man trudging along the side of the road. Again, between my poor reaction time and reasoning with myself that I couldn't help at the moment, I passed by. But give me some credit. I at least switched to the other lane, so I could pass in a safer manner.
This isn't an uncommon experience for most of us. Often we see a car broken down on the side of the road, or a person making their way along a busy road, but we pass by without doing anything about it.
But we're justified in doing it. After all, safety first...right?
Well, yes and no.
Sure, if you're driving along a deserted road at night in the driving rain, and you see a car stopped on the side of the road with a vanity license plate that says "JASON" and hockey-mask-wearing, machete-toting occupant, it might be better to keep on driving.
But let's be honest, even though we bemoan how dangerous the world has gotten, if we exercise a moderate amount of caution, there's not just a ton of danger in helping someone on the side of the road.
If we can't use the safety excuse, we now have to face up to some pointed questions. Why don't we normally stop to help people on the side of the road? What are we - what am I - so scared of that makes us ignore people in need?
One day when he was teaching, Jesus told those listening to Him - and by extension, us - that they should love their neighbors. When a smart guy in the crowd, probably looking for loopholes, asked Jesus to clarify just who their neighbor was, Jesus told this story.“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."
Jesus could have chosen any number of scenarios to illustrate this principle of loving our neighbor, but he chose to use a story about a man on the side of the road who needed help. That should tell us something.
We all like to think of ourselves as that good Samaritan. You know, the guy who was going somewhere, but took the time to stop and take care of the guy on the side of the road. But how many of us actually practice that kind of compassion in our lives?
I think the real reason for passing by "on the other side" is much more trivial and self-centered than any supposed qualms about personal safety. We're just moving through life too quickly. We have our own agendas, our own schedules. We have to make it to work in time, we don't want to keep our friend waiting over lunch, and goodness knows we can't be late for church! So we pass by "on the other side."
When I passed by that guy on the side of the interstate not long ago, I was convicted and made a decision to help those on the side of the road who needed help.
Last week I was driving along on my way to work out when I saw a car on the side of the road with its caution lights on. I pulled over, flipped my lights on, and walked back towards the other car. As I walked up, I looked through the car window. There wasn't a masked man holding an axe, but there was a young woman with a child in the backseat.
"Is there anything I can do to help," I asked? Nope, roadside assistance was already on the way. I struck out that time. But I was undeterred. For far too long passing people by has been a major blindspot in my life. So now, newly-convicted, I'm going to do the best I can to help my neighbor on the side of the road, even if it makes me late sometimes.