And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
Doing good and loving our neighbors and serving God don’t just happen in those carefully planned times of church and ministry, but they happen out in the real world at anytime among real people who need kindness, people who need someone who won’t ignore their struggle. There are desperate people all around who need someone who will reach out and help, someone to help carry them through, someone to care, to make a difference. There are people who can’t reach out who need someone to reach in, sometime to take notice and stop and do whatever they can.
The priest and the Levite came upon an injured man by chance. They just happened to pass by on the same path where a man had been robbed and left for dead. This wasn’t part of their duties at the temple. This wasn’t an assignment or a task they were responsible for, but it was a test, in a way. Because after all their time spent talking about God and His ways and His righteousness and doing good and loving others and making sacrifices, they didn’t put it into practice when an opportunity arose.
What will we do when an unplanned situation arises and we are faced with a choice? Will we pass by and ignore what we see in front of us? Will we go along as if we’ve already done our duty and not be bothered by the suffering around us? Will we notice those hurting people in our path and keep going because of pride or callousness or we’re too busy or we don’t think it’s worth it to stop? What kind of heart will we have when people come our way who need us to think more about them than about ourselves?
The man who prompted Jesus to tell this story had asked a simple question: “Who is my neighbor?” as if, perhaps, he could define those who fell into that category and be justified in ignoring whoever wasn’t considered his neighbor. But as usual, Jesus has a much broader focus than our narrow one. Basically our neighbor is anyone other than us, so let us be ready to respond in a right way to those chance encounters that come along in our lives. Let us not confine our love and compassion and service to only those closest to us, and let us be willing to reach out whenever we can do good to someone else.