Angling across to the other side
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.” Luke 10.30-32 | MSG
Most of us don’t have to be taught or trained in the art of avoidance. It comes quite naturally.
We can lambast the priest and Levite to our heart’s content, skewering them for being more concerned with their own safety and status than with the bleeding need right before them on that Jericho Road. But in skewering them we only skewer ourselves “for you who pass judgment are doing the same things.” We all work this angle quite well. Angling across to the other side, changing the channels, switching the stations, minimizing the article or letter – we’re all skilled in doing it. Why do we turn away from such obvious needs when we just “happen” to be the one’s across whose path this bleeding need is placed?
We rationalize for the priest and Levite: People are depending on me, I must not keep them waiting; surely someone else will come; this could totally be a scam; this is too risky; what can I really do anyway?
But once again, to expose their possible rationalizations is only to expose our own for we think the same things.
And perhaps the biggest most paralyzing rationalization, particularly in this day of our global village when the needs of all the world are right there on our laptop is simply the enormity of the need. We literally feel carried away and numbed by the onslaught of it all.
Perhaps that puts us right back with that priest and Levite, angling across the road. This is simply what happens. There is poverty, there are bandits, people get robbed, people get beaten, people get killed. Stopping to help this one man won’t change any of that, so the best thing to do is to at least make sure I’m not one of the bandits, keep my own hands clean, and just move through as quickly as I can.
But Jesus in setting the stage for the entrance of the unlikely hero provides us with the catalyst that can break such rationalizing complacency in his use of two simple words: “by chance.” The Greek is kata sugkurian = according to chance, with “chance” (sugkurian) being a rare word occurring only here in the New Testament and little elsewhere; a word made of two parts syn (sun) with and kurian from the same base as kurios “Lord.” What many would say is luck or happenstance is in really a God-instance or God-incidence, or what we often call a “divine appointment.”
The divine appointment for some is to engage on a much larger scale in taking on societal ills; as someone has said, if people are being tossed into the river upstream, someone needs to go upstream and put a stop to it! But perhaps the “God-incidence” for most of us is just tending to the one bleeding need right in our path that has our name divinely smeared on it.
And instead of turning away, we see it.
Instead of angling to the other side, we walk towards the bleeding need.
How do you respond when exposed to the onslaught of global needs? What specific need is calling out to you today? How will you respond?
Lord, save me from paralysis and numbness when I am exposed to deep human needs and brokenness. Impel my feet to move towards the mess and let my hands and heart engage it, as you would direct. Show me when I’m angling away when I need to be walking towards. Through Jesus.