Ever been driving on a cold, rainy morning — and see a body off the side of the road, face down in the grass, not moving?
I did this morning.
And even as I continued by and watched in my rear view mirror, I knew what I had to do. Even though my fuel gauge was on empty, even though I was going to be late for work, even though my phone was dead and I had no way of calling 911 — so many reasons to let someone else handle it — but I knew that I had to go back.
As I turned the car around and headed back, I wondered to myself, “What am I even going to do if this guy is dead and not just passed out?”
But imagine my surprise when he was surprised by my approach and my loud shout of, “Is everything okay?” Imagine my surprise when what I thought was either a dead body or a passed out drunk — responded alert and quite as much surprised by my unexpected presence in his morning, as I was about his presence in mine.
I then realized that he had been laying on his face, motionless with his right arm (that I thought was beneath him) actually down some type of hole or pipe and he was doing some type of utility work with his hand deep in the ground.
“Sorry, I just wasn’t sure if everything was okay,” I stammered as I stopped short and made it clear to him that I wasn’t approaching as a threat but as a concerned neighbor.
I don’t know if he laughed or exactly what he said, but we both realized the humor of each other’s side of the situation for a moment — we had both for that split moment looked at the situation from how the other was seeing it — him seeing a guy who thought he was about to deal with a body on the side of the road — and me seeing a guy just trying to start his dirty morning work to have a stranger come up from behind and scare him.
I said, “God bless” and headed back on my way to work.
But it got me thinking — how many times do we see metaphorical “dead or hurt bodies along the ditches of this life through which we are walking” and choose to do nothing about it?
And how many times might we think that we’re about to help someone who is in trouble to realize that they are just fine and don’t actually need our help?
Do we even stop to find out?
I’m not saying that to glorify the fact that I stopped this time, because there are many times that not only did I not stop to help my brother or sister in need, I didn’t really care about them because “I had my own things to worry about.”
Let’s look at it from a different angle too…
I spent time with a friend who drives a wrecker early, early this morning for the second Thursday morning in a row where he was picking up a car from the side of the road. Last week it was a vehicle that had flipped and rolled over multiple times. This week it was a vehicle that had been stolen and recovered by the police. In the first case, the occupants of the car wanted and needed help. The occupant of the car this time needed help but definitely didn’t want the help he found by way of the back seat of a police car.
But even though we might see the parallels and connections up to this point, I want to bring out something that Nickey (that’s my friend who drives the wrecker) mentioned while we were riding in that roll back wrecker early this morning.
He said, “Hop, you know how some folks are quick to hug and tell each other they love each other?”
“Yes,” I replied.
He said, “I don’t do that, because I think that the English language does a disservice to that word love. There is only one word for ‘love’ in English, but in Hebrew and Greek and many other languages they have different words to describe the actual thing they are talking about.”
“I understand what you’re saying. People can say ‘love’ and mean all kinds of things in English — passion, intimacy, deep brotherly love, superficial love, like, lust — all kinds of things,” I replied.
He continued, “If I ask you to help me with something and you tell me that you’re too busy, what are you really saying?”
I understood his line of questioning immediately. I answered, “I’m saying that I care more about what I have planned or want to do.”
“And that speaks to what you truly love, right?” Nickey prompted and then quickly mentioned, “You remember when I asked you a few weeks ago about us getting together with our wives for dinner sometime?”
Boom! Bomb dropped in love. Correction accepted. I love this man, this friend, this brother.
Here I thought we were having a Luke 10:25-37, Parable of the Good Samaritan, conversation. And we were passing through that “town” of love, but the “street address” that Nickey was looking for as we rode along in that flatbed wrecker together was John 13:35.
I spoke with my wife this morning. We’ll be doing dinner with Nickey and his wife next week.
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Luke 10:25-37 (NLT)
The Most Important Commandment
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Parable of the Good Samaritan
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”