Not-So-Good Samaritans

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Driving to church Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m., I spotted a man walking on the other side of the divided highway. Having never seen a pedestrian on our highway in nearly eight years of living in the area, I found him incongruous. He wore casual business clothes, something out of a Dockers ad, and had a nice outdoor jacket with the collar turned up. He looked about 40, with that quintessential “used to be an athlete, but now gone to mush” body type. Heading into the rising sun, he kept his eyes straight ahead, content to seer his retinas.

Of course, I looked for the broken-down car, but there wasn’t one. Nor was he in an area that had many houses or destinations nearby.

He was just out of place.

And I had places to go.

I soon reached the horizon point for assistance and crossed over into that land of questions and regret. When I prayed for insight into the man’s disposition, the image I got in my head was of him walking for miles until he came to a lake, whereupon he continued his stroll and let the waters come up over his head until there was nothing left of him to see.

Barring the truth that I had been up too late the night before, plus being useless for anything before 10 a.m., I didn’t give the image much thought. But then the message at church touched on the desperation many Americans feel right now, and the image of the man walking into the lake jarred me.

Driving home, the parable of the Good Samaritan popped into my head. What got me was the idea that the man left beaten by robbers bore contusions that marked him as a victim of violence. His wounds cried out. A quick visual would tell anyone that this was someone in dire need of medical attention.

But what of the people who have been mugged by life, whose bruises are internal, on the soul, the psyche, who have been beaten up by simply existing? Walking into the waters...They look normal on the outside, but on the inside they are hemorrhaging emotionally. Because we can’t see the wounds, we think everything is peachy with them—until one day they get up, put on a nice pair of slacks with coordinating shirt, tell the wife they’re going to clear their head by taking a morning constitutional, turn up their jacket collar against the world, gently close the door behind them, and proceed to walk into dark, chill waters.

I don’t think we have ever had the opportunity in our lifetimes (speaking of those under 50) to reach out to desperate people in search of greater meaning than we do now. If I were a leader in a large Protestant denomination or parachurch ministry, I’d have someone shooting a commercial to air on TV at every opportunity that says, Each of us has a story.  We will listen to yours and help you write a better ending. Because Jesus cares, we care, too. Your story matters to us.

I think millions of people out there are dying for someone, anyone, to care. Listening has never been a great strength of modern Christians, but I’m convinced that we have got to get better at doing it. Not offering advice, not quoting Romans 8:28 at people, but just listening. The need for this kind of ministry has never been greater.

But it takes time. It means laying down your life, not in a “bloody martydom” sort of way, but laying down schedules and busyness. Because taking the time to listen takes…well, time. It takes commitment to listen to someone who is hurting. Sure, we may take time for people laid up in the hospital after being in a physical car wreck, but what time are we willing to give to people who have been in a mental one?

Some of us long for opportunities to be Good Samaritans, yet we ignore this vital, vital means to bind up the wounds of the brokenhearted. It’s not as flashy. Nor is it over quickly. But God knows it’s never been more needed.

23 thoughts on “Not-So-Good Samaritans

  1. Good sir, you could not have more succinctly summed up all that I have contemplated these last few months during my annual hibernation. God grant us the heart for these matters, but also the eyes to the need where it is disguised or where we’ve become calloused.

  2. Dan,

    Excellnt observation.

    There is a lot of pain out there. People are ‘being had’ by all that world has to offer them, themselves, and the devil.

    We ought seek them out…listen to them…let thm know we know how they feel (often) and tell thm the good News of Jesus Christ and how He has conqyuered all of this pain and hurting on the cross.

    We give them help(if we can ) for the hear and now…but more umportantly we give them what the world could never buy…the Peace that passes all understanding…in the gospel of our dear Lord, Jesus.

    Thanks Dan!

    • Steve,

      I’m beginning to think the best ministry that some men may have would be to take a few guys from work out for a drink at the local bar and just let them talk. I know that may not go over well in some circles, but I think it has merit.

  3. Thanks for your post. I’ve taken some of what you’ve said and made some suggestions to leaders in our congregation.
    True listening has to be unselfish or it’s not really listening.

  4. Diane R

    Actually, there is someone who will listen to us, for years if we want. He or she is called the Christian psychologist. But there is a catch. You have to pay him or her to. Isn’t this sad. Perhaps if the church follows what you are recommending, 1/2 of the Christian psychologists’ clients would not be coming to them anymore.

    • Diane,

      Comfort can be given by many people. I think the lack we have in our culture is of wise people with sage advice. Some of us are looking for those folks and they are few and far between. I think that some see psychologists as those wise people, but you and I know they may be anything but.

  5. Aaron

    Dan,

    As always, enjoyed the read and it touches a place that many neglect to “take time” to even think about. Having been in my current job for nearly five years now, I have been listening to, without offering much advice, to a man who struggles daily. I sometimes point him towards the church, but usually he turns the subject matter to me and asks, “what would you do in this situation – since you go to church and all?” It is tough to just listen, but with my co-worker I have learned that an audience is all this man needs most times. I think I may have mentioned a few Bible verses to him over these past few years, but I try not to beat him over the head with it. I usually throw the name of a good Christian band that has a song or set of songs that might apply to him at a given time. To this, he has been most receptive and I am glad that God has given me a wide array of musical tastes to be able to share.

    Again, thanks for your continued, well-written posts. You are a blessing to me when I stop by to read up on all things Dan.

    • Aaron

      Dan,

      After reading your post again I went back through my own archives and reposted something from December 2006 with some follow up. You made me think, have I been a Good Samaritan or have I been a hypocritical pharisee? I wish I knew . . .

      Thanks for making me think, I needed it.

  6. TruthBeTold

    Hello Dan,

    You stated….”He was just out of place.

    And I had places to go.

    I soon reached the horizon point for assistance and crossed over into that land of questions and regret. When I prayed for insight into the man’s disposition, the image I got in my head was of him walking for miles until he came to a lake, whereupon he continued his stroll and let the waters come up over his head until there was nothing left of him to see.”

    Sigh…it made me so sad to read those words. I am glad you are thinking about this and asking questions but I would like to suggest that instead of listening to them the better result would be to listen to the Holy Spirit.

    People today do not need to have someone listen to their problems but instead they need someone that has been thoroughly dealt with by the cross of Christ so that they can come along side them and show them the way THROUGH.

    Those that are led by the Spirit these are the sons of God. This is what the world needs right now, to have an encounter with one that has been crucified with Christ and is completely surrendered to the Holy Spirit. These are those that He then can move, breathe, and have HIS BEING within. One anointed word, direction, and touch can instantly bring deliverance and salavation to a person that is desperate for LIVING WATER.

    TruthBeTold

    • TruthBeTold,

      I believe I was listening to the Holy Spirit.

      I must respectfully disagree with what you wrote. Jesus listened to people. He often addressed their practical need along with their spiritual need. The Bible is filled with this kind of example. God can make an axehead float, but a person of God need to listen to the problem of the lost axehead first.

      The Church in the West has largely been rendered ineffective because we have not listened to the lost. We have preached at hurting people, but that does not work unless we are willing to draw alongside them and to listen to their need. We all know they need Christ. That’s basic. But they have other needs, too, and our meeting them—even through something as simple as being the only person to listen to them—opens the door for salvation.

      No one is an island. God said that it is not good for Man to be alone, even though God walked face to face with Adam. We need other people, and we need to listen to each other when we hurt. Perhaps then we will earn the right to be heard when we tell others about how Jesus can solve their most needful issues.

      • TruthBeTold

        Hello Dan,

        There are a few comments of yours that I want to address….and I do so sincerely and not in strife…

        “The Church in the West has largely been rendered ineffective because we have not listened to the lost. ”

        No, the ‘church’ is rendered ineffective b/c it has not listened to the Holy Spirit. This is true of the ‘church’ in all corners of the world not just in the west. The SYSTEM is the problem. The man-made church system…those that are governed by the carnal mind instead of the mind of Christ.

        I don’t like the word ‘church’ ….the very etymology of the word is rooted in paganism and mean ‘circus’.
        I prefer the true meaning and that is ekklesia….’the called out ones’. Those that are truly called out are SPIRIT LED and governed by the mind of Christ. These are the Bride…pure and spotless and these precious scattered saints are found in every corner of the globe… yes even in the west.

        The counterfit ‘church’ is all about programs, building empires (usually of the pastor’s vision), and is all about SELF and works of the flesh. These represent the Harlot.

        You wrote…”We all know they need Christ. That’s basic. But they have other needs, too, and our meeting them—even through something as simple as being the only person to listen to them—opens the door for salvation.”

        Is Jesus Christ enough? I can testify that He is. He alone is the ONLY ONE that can satisfy another’s need. Salvation is His work alone. I cannot draw a person to Christ, nope that is the job of Father to do that. The only ‘work’ that I have is to pick up my cross daily so that I will be completely DEAD TO SELF so that His life is manifested within me. It is all a Spirit led walk. For me to even have the desire to pick up my cross and yield to His workmanship is b/c of His grace…I cannot even take credit for that.

        “Perhaps then we will earn the right to be heard when we tell others about how Jesus can solve their most needful issues. ”

        Once again, when a person is being led by the Spirit they will not have to ‘earn the right to be heard’ for the Holy Spirit will have prepared the heart and opened the ear of the hearer to receive what is shared. The man-made church has all kinds of methods for evangelism that have been conjured up by the carnal mind that are all rooted in self effort….and EVERY one of them is of DUNG in the eyes of God.

        Salvation is the Lord’s work. He is the one who starts the work and is the one who FINISHES it. It is all Him. Aren’t you glad!

        Praise His Holy name!

        • TruthBeTold,

          If you have read this blog long enough, you know that few people in the blogosphere have written more on being guided by the Holy Spirit than I have. In fact, that was my main call to the Church in 2008. So you get no arguments from me on the primacy of that need.

          To your question of “Is Jesus Christ enough?” I must answer that—as you have defined Him in your argument—the answer must be no.

          What I mean by that is that you are not a singular entity. The Christian is part of a body. So the Christian is not some entity divorced from the rest of humanity to which Jesus is connected solely. Christ is the head of the Church, and that body is a collection of believers who are joined together into the Head. A body, by necessity must communicate within itself. The human body communicates within itself, part to part and part to brain. That is how it lives.

          A Church that does not communicate between parts, or that fails to communicate with the outside world is a failed entity. And that is one of the primary failures of the modern Church. It’s insular nature has rendered it moot to the rest of the world. We did not listen when they cried out, so they tuned us out.

          When the Church has been tuned out, it must, indeed, regain the right to be heard. We can preach till we are blue in the face and even do so by the power of the Holy Spirit, but as James so aptly says,

          If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
          —James 2:15-16

          Exactly. And we find out another’s need for food by listening.

          This extends beyond the Church to the lost. We must listen to their needs, both physical and spiritual. The man who is freezing will be more likely to hear if he is warm. Warm first, then give the message. Listening to the Holy Spirit does not mean NOT listening to human beings and responding to their physical needs.

    • TruthBeTold,

      Why follow the admonition to meet together as brothers and sisters in Christ then? There would be no need to.

      Why then would Paul command the Thessalonians this way?

      Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing…. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
      —1 Thessalonians 5:11,14

      Or how would there be any point to these words of Paul?

      But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted by you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. Therefore we are comforted. And besides our own comfort, we rejoiced still more at the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.
      —2 Corinthians 7:6-7, 13

      It would appear that simple fellowship with other believers brought comfort, encouragement, and blessing. And God provides that THROUGH His people. That is one way in which He ministers.

      No man is an island. We need the brothers and sisters of the Faith, too.

  7. Amen, Dan. I’ve just spent over a year watching a lack of simple fellowship and friendship slowly disintegrate a small group that was once closer than family. I can attest to the need to simply have a friend, not just a preacher.

  8. kg

    Thank you Dan.

    We became acquainted a over a year ago with a couple that lives a block away from us. Our kids went to school together. They came to our church and bible study class a couple of times. They needed help. They needed someone to listen.

    But their lives were messy. Too messy for the tidy, surface-only relationships that we prefer. There was clinical depression, alcoholism, fights. After a couple of “uncomfortable” episodes, we pulled back and came up with excuses after that.

    Any interaction after that involved only a quick “How ya’ doing?” and small talk.

    They’re getting a divorce. I drive by what appears to now be an empty house every day, still too much of a pansy to at least place a phone call.

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