I’d like to think of myself as a servant, but Pastor Eli Morris of Hope Presbyterian Church in Cordova, TN made it clear that I’m not there yet. At THE STIRRING service, Pastor Eli named three characteristics of “selflessness” and illustrated them with the Parable of The Good Samaritan:
- willing to be interrupted
- willing to take risks
- willing to do whatever it takes
In Luke 10:25-37 Jesus tells us about a man traveling on a treacherous road between Jerusalem and Jericho who was beaten and robbed, and left for dead. A Priest traveling the same road saw him but crossed to the other side so as to not “impose”. An exalted Temple Servant, a Levite, also came along and did the same thing, going out of his way to not make eye contact with the bleeding man. It wasn’t until a Samaritan (who would have been hated by the Jewish people) stopped to render aid that we see what true selflessness looks like.
The Priest and Levite who were recognized as leaders and praiseworthy in the Jewish community had business that was too “important” to be delayed as they traveled the road. Maybe they were fearful that the robbers were still around and if they stopped to offer help they too would be beaten and robbed. The only effort the Priest and Levite expended was to move to the other side of the road, hopeful that they could sneak on by, ignoring the man and his needs. In contrast, the Samaritan put the bleeding man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, paid for his keep and even promised the innkeeper that he’d check in on the way back and pay if there was more money due. There’s no indication that the Samaritan and beaten man were family or even knew each other. Jesus was telling the story in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”
Last year I was driving on West End Avenue towards downtown Nashville in morning rush hour when the car in front of me jumped the curb and crashed into a lightpole in front of Montgomery Bell Academy, blowing out the right front tire. I hadn’t hit the car, in fact I had already come to a stop and then watched the event as it unfolded. I put my emergency flashers on and cautiously got out of my car as another car sped around me honking his horn; I guess he was upset that I was holding up traffic. The older lady in the crumpled car had hit her head and a cut above her eye was bleeding. She begged me not to call the police or her husband, but I told her that we had to because she was hurt. I dialed 911 and tried to calm her down. Just then, another car whizzed around me anxious to get by the accident. Seemed like a lot of Priests and Levites on the commute that morning.
In what seemed like only a few minutes, a police car pulled up and parked behind my car.
“Are you the one that hit her?”
“Heavens, No! I stopped a few feet behind her when her car took off and veered to the right. She seems disoriented and she’s bleeding a little from a gash on her forehead; I don’t know if she’s a diabetic or has something medical going on that caused the accident, but she needs medical attention.”
The policeman walked to the front of my car, quickly inspecting it.
“I can tell you didn’t hit her. Why did you bother to stop?”
“Well, I saw the whole thing happen and figured I was the best witness. When I saw that she was disoriented and had hit her head, I didn’t want to leave her until some medical personnel came. I was afraid somebody might hit her again since her car is still sticking out into the highway.”
“It’s amazing that you weren’t even involved but still stopped to help her. Most of the time we don’t see people stop when they are the one who caused the accident!”
Just then an ambulance and a fire truck pulled up. I knew that she was going to be taken care of. “I’ll be going now. Here’s my work number if you need to call me to help you fill out your police report.”
I’m not telling this story to brag about how “selfless” I was but instead as a reminder that I should never be too busy to be interrupted, too fearful of risks, or too self-centered to do what it takes when God asks me to take care of my neighbor. Instead of acting “neighborly “ only when I feel like it, I need to trust God and act like a Good Samaritan all of the time. I should welcome interruptions to my plans and look at them as opportunities to serve God.
Pastor Eli reminded me that it’s not good enough just to serve in a high-profile soup line, servanthood is often doing small things for people we don’t even know.
(From a sermon by Pastor Eli Morris, Hope Presbyterian Church, Cordova, TN on November 11, 2012 at The Stirring, 5:30PM service)