We don't really know anything about the man who fell victim to robbers. All we know is that he was traveling, stripped, beaten, and left for dead. We don't know his name, his history, or his personal biography. He was a man...a human being. We also know that after being beaten, robbed, and left for dead, he was ignored. This, perhaps, must have been the worst part of the whole ordeal. Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. The people that he thought might come to his rescue ignored him. But the Samaritan stopped. The Samaritan touched his wounds, picked him up, carried him, and cared for him.
During the past weeks and months, it has become obvious that there is a lot of pain and division in the world right now. A lot of people feel as though they are laying wounded by the side of the road dying and ignored. But, nobody is stopping and listening to them. Nobody seems to care. So many people feel helpless and feel as though they don't count. All of us, in some way or another, are like the man laying by the side of the road. We are frustrated when it seems as though nobody really notices us or cares about us. At the same time, all of us are also the people passing by on the road. We are probably all guilty of ignoring the pleas and wounds of others. It seems as though what is happening is that instead of stopping and attending to the wounds of others, we all just yell louder about our own wounds.
Police officers feel as though nobody listens to them, hears them, or understands them. Many African Americans feel as though they are wounded and ignored. Pro-life people and Christians feel as though they are being mistreated and ignored. Gay people feel ignored and wounded. Immigrants and poor people, working class people, young people, old people, the list goes on and on. Even within the Church, all sorts of people feel ignored and wounded. Everybody feels, in one way or another, as though they were the man laying by the side of the road.
In the parable, the man laying by the side of the road was ignored. Since the time Jesus told that parable, things have gotten worse. That man would probably long for being just ignored! Today, he becomes the subject of online debates. Today, his photo would appear on Instagram or he'd be a meme on Facebook, or the victim of a pithy Tweet. Today, we do something much worse than ignore the man by the side of the road. Today the man by the side of the road becomes a topic of discussion and debate.
Were the parable happening today, perhaps social media would explode with opinions on his plight. Some would take sympathetic photos and say, "What is the government doing to stop robberies on the road to Jericho?" "This is a perfect example of why we need to get tough on crime." "It's his own fault. Everyone knows that road is dangerous. By traveling alone, he was putting himself and others in jeopardy." "This is the fifth man left for dead in the past year on that road. We need better weapons to defend ourselves." "If the economy were better, people wouldn't feel the need to rob people as much." Or perhaps, since the priest and the levite passed by, somebody might decide to publicly shame them, put their faces and addresses on Facebook, and incite violence against them. Or, perhaps we could use this as a great opportunity to talk about the hypocrisy of religious believers.
In Jesus' parable, the two men simply crossed the road and ignored the dying man. In today's world, we do something worse. We give the impression of caring by endlessly talking and posting about the situation. But does anyone stop? Does anyone stop and touch the wounded, listen to their plight, or pick them up?
Today, I think we find it difficult to accept that those with whom we disagree also feel wounded and ignored. Everyone feels as though they are the only ones truly hurting. And so, we shout more loudly over the voices of others. It is logical. If we were wounded and thought nobody was coming to our aid, we naturally would shout more loudly. This is true in the Church and in the culture. We want somebody to care. Those who feel excluded from the Church because of their marital situation or because they have same sex attractions want to feel as though someone listens to their pain. Those who feel they are unfairly criticized by people in the Church simply because they teach and believe what the Church teaches and believes about marriage and sexuality want somebody to listen to them and not dismiss them. Those who feel passionately about gun violence want somebody to care. Those who are passionate about the Second Amendment want somebody to listen to them. Those who are concerned about illegal immigration want somebody to listen to them. The poor immigrant who feels demonized and dehumanized wants someone to listen to him.
It seems as though everybody is shouting because they feel wounded and ignored. Everybody feels compelled to denounce the other wounded people as not really deserving of being listened to and helped. The more loudly each person shouts, the more difficult it becomes for them to hear the cries of the other. Nobody stops anymore. Frustrations build and animosities increase. Social media becomes a place not where we stop and care for the other, but a place where we simply shout all the louder. Social media--if we are not careful--becomes a way of deepening the isolation that others feel. If we want to begin healing the divisions and wounds that are tearing apart our communities, perhaps instead of shouting more loudly, we all should stop and listen. We don't have to agree with the person in front of us, but we can listen to that person and love that person. The Samaritan and the Jewish man who was wounded were on opposite sides of many issues. But, what makes the Samaritan so heroic is that he used this opportunity to bind wounds, not deepen them.
When we were laying by the side of the road wounded, ignored, and unable to help ourselves, God did not send out a Tweet. He sent His Son. Jesus comes and stops where we are. He hears the cry of the poor. He lifts us up, touches our wounds, carries us, and takes care of us. If we want to be like Christ, we all need to stop and care for the wounded. Not the wounded whom we think deserve our attention, not the wounded whom we think fit into our particular paradigm. We need to stop at the wounded who are right in our path. We need to listen to others even if they disagree with us. That goes for ALL of us.
Everyone we encounter this week suffers from the wounds of a broken humanity. Everyone who shouts this week is crying out and begging not to be ignored, mocked, or discounted. Instead of trying to change the world this week, let's look for opportunities to change the life of one person--the person in front of us--the person who is wounded and feels ignored. That's the person God has placed in our path. Touch the wounds of that person. Treat that person with mercy.