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Faith in Action: Be the Church
Love Takes a Detour, part 4
Unfortunately, 65-year-old Clive Collins didn’t have someone like the Samaritan around. Collins was opening his car trunk in a parking lot in Boscombe, England, when a manhole cover tipped, and he slipped down into the 5 1/2 foot deep hole. Collins told the BBC News, “Probably about 15-20 people walked by. The more I called out, the less they seemed to notice me. What surprised me is that they didn’t even make eye contact. A woman actually parked alongside my camper and put the hood up on her car. I said, ‘Can you please call me an ambulance’ and she refused to acknowledge the fact that I was there.” Collins said one shopper did acknowledge him but did nothing to help. “One chap looked straight at me in his car driving very slowly by and I waved. He waved back and then carried on.”
Despite suffering broken ribs he managed to get his cell phone out of his pocket and call 999 (England’s version of 911) himself. He needed 47 stitches and treatment for two broken ribs, a chipped tooth and a strained groin. Source: BBC, September 14, 2006. The BBC didn’t report on whether most of the shoppers were priests and Levites, but there were apparently no Samaritans.
Some people use the excuse of not wanting to get personally involved in helping someone in need. But the Samaritan did not use that excuse. He didn’t wait for someone else. He didn’t just call 911 or phone the pastor to get involved. He didn’t just write a check. He got involved. He was moved with compassion toward action. He got in the ditch with the man. He got close and bandaged the man’s wounds. He probably came out of the ditch looking dirty and bloody too. If you are going to love your neighbor, don’t use personal involvement as an excuse to hold back.
When we were youth pastors in the Cities, our Music Minister and his family were foster parents for drug-exposed babies. The most common response they would get from Christians (when they found out that they did that) was, “Oh, I could never do that. I would love the babies too much, and it would be too hard to let them go.” They were using the excuse that they loved too much to help. Isn’t that interesting?!
A Detour That Took Time
Verse 34b– “Then the Samaritan put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of Him.” The Samaritan didn’t use a time schedule as an excuse not to help. He took the time to stop, and then he slowed his progress by putting the man on his donkey. There wasn’t an emergency room where the Samaritan could take the man. Instead, he took him to a motel and cared for the man himself that night.
Sometimes we use our schedules to justify not helping people in need. In fact this may be the most common excuse of them all. In Malcolm Gladwell’s Book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference” he tells of a fascinating experiment:
Some years ago two Princeton University psychologists, John Darley and Daniel Batson, decided to conduct a study inspired by the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan. Darley and Batson decided to replicate that study at the Princeton Theological Seminary... Darley and Batson met with a group of seminarians, individually, and asked each one to prepare a short, extemporaneous talk on a given Biblical theme, then walk over to a nearby building to present it. Along the way to the presentation, each student ran into a man slumped in an alley, head down, eyes closed, coughing and groaning. The question was, who would stop and help? Darley and Batson introduced three variables into the experiment, to make its results more meaningful.
First, before the experiment even started, they gave the students a questionnaire about why they had chosen to study theology. Did they see religion as a means for personal and spiritual fulfillment? Or were they looking for a practical tool for finding meaning in everyday life? Then they varied the subject of the theme the students were asked to talk about. Some were asked to speak on the relevance of the professional clergy to the religious vocation. Others were given the parable of the Good Samaritan. Finally, the instructions given by the experimenters to each student varied as well. In some of the cases, as he sent the students on their way, the experimenter would look at his watch and say, ‘Oh, you’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We’d better get moving.’ In other cases, he would say, ‘It will be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head over now.’
If you ask people to predict which seminarians played the Good Samaritan (and subsequent studies have done just this) their answers are highly consistent. They almost all say that the students who entered the ministry to help people and those reminded of the importance of compassion by having just read the parable of the Good Samaritan will be the most likely to stop.
Most of us, I think, would agree with those conclusions. In fact, neither of those factors made any difference.
'It is hard to think of a context in which norms concerning helping those in distress are more salient than for a person thinking about the Good Samaritan, and yet it did not significantly increase helping behavior,’ Darley and Batson concluded. ‘Indeed, on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried on his way.’
The only thing that really mattered was whether the student was in a rush. Of the group that was, 10 percent stopped to help. Of the group who knew they had a few minutes to spare, 63 percent stopped. What this study is suggesting, in other words, is that the convictions of your heart and the actual contents of your thoughts are less important, in the end, in guiding your actions than the immediate context of your behavior. The words ‘Oh, you’re late’ had the effect of making someone who was ordinarily compassionate into someone who was indifferent to suffering — of turning someone, in that particular moment, into a different person.”
Medication: A Merry Heart
THREE SIGNS THAT YOU ARE NO LONGER A KID
Naps are good.
Your parents’ jokes are funny.
When things go wrong, you can’t just yell “Do-over!”
St Mark’s Community Church, Janesville
New Beginnings Church, New Ulm
Verse of the Week: Romans 5:8 NLT
Today’s readings: Leviticus 8 – 10