“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The power of the victim in the Good Samaritan

Following up on the last post about power, it occurred to me that in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), power can be seen.  That is, in the story one man is beaten and left for dead.  Three others come by.  First was a priest, second was a Levite (apparently a kind of assistant priest) who both passed by and didn't help the man disabled by the beating.  But a Samaritan stopped, helped the man and took him to a hotel where he could be cared for.

The new point for me was that the man who was disabled by the beating did nothing but lay there.  His only role in the story was that he was present.  When those who were arguably more "powerful" in that they were able to get up, move, do the things they wanted to do like travel came into his presence, his presence alone revealed their character.  They were much more powerful by comparison, he had no power by comparison (1 Corinthians 12:22 again, "seem weaker") but his presence alone was either hugely affirming or quite damning of the character of those who came in contact with him.  I mean think about it!  For centuries since, the Samaritan and his response has become a part of western (at least) language.  We all recognize that the Samaritan's character was revealed in this exchange (well it wasn't really an exchange because one person did nothing), in this encounter (a better word).  The priest and the Levite probably thought themselves good guys, regular temple attenders, respected in the community and so forth.  But the presence of a person with a disability revealed at least to some extant who they actually were.

And who were the priest and the Levite?

Jesus tells us.  They were people who were not a neighbor, who did not love their neighbor.  So who are we as a church?  We are people in the words of Jesus who do not "Go and do likewise."  We are the ones who pass by on the other side.  We are the ones who are unwilling to be changed by the presence of people who simply by their presence have the power to either reveal our character or potentially change us through the insight we get into who we are.  They are once again, "indispensable" because they will show us, all of us, independent of where each of stands on the disability/impairment continuum, who we are relative to the second greatest commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves.

But people need to be present among us for that power to be weilded.  We need to stop the "passed by on the other side" kind of behavior which is little more than deliberately ignoring our neighbor.  The sad part is that both the priest and the Levite "saw the man" which resulted in the behavior of passing by on the other side.  When people tell me they just didn't know about people with disabilities in the community, I don't believe them.  Church leaders know there are people with disabilities in the community.  Although they may not actually put themselves in a place where they see them, they are still passing by on the other side.

Why is the inclusion of persons with disabilities so foundational?  Jesus shows us that if we do not love them, we do not love our neighbor.  What could be more basically wrong with us than if we don't love our neighbor.  The image of a man "left for dead" is a perfect illustration.  How often does the church, knowing people with disabilities are in need and in the community, attitudinally leave them for dead.  Everyone around the beaten man in the story allowed him to be "left for dead."  The social isolation and lives being filled with "almost friends" (Baca & McNair, 2013) people who are exclusively paid to be with a person with a disability, is how we leave people for dead today.  We must be like the Good Samaritan, love our neighbor, and reflect Jesus' directive to "Go and do as he did."


Baca, J. & McNair, J. (2013).  Almost friends.  Journal of the Christian Institute on Disability, 2(1).



EXCELLENT admonition, Jeff!

Ann said...

Thanks, Jeff! What a great reminder on many levels!

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Jeff, it is my hope that those laying there will hear their importance in God's story. Often when you see so any walk by (while revealing of character for those travelers) it leaves you, the weaken one, with a sense of unimportance. What you underline is just the opposite. Thank you from a fellow ditch resident.

Anonymous said...

This passage has a more meaningful message then being a Good Samaritan. The focus is really on the person who is disabled. The power that the person who is disabled really has in the scripture, I never really thought until now what a significant role the person who is disabled has in the scripture. The power that the disable person projects in the scripture is something I never thought about before. The person who is disabled has the power to bring out our true colors, whether we are truly following the footsteps of Jesus or are we just being pretenders. I think about my church and ask the question is my church really following the teachings of Jesus and acting like Jesus would? The answer would be no, like Jesus said, if you don’t show love especially to those who are disabled then you don’t really love your neighbors. It makes me sad because even today I have witness especially in my own church how we still shun and walk away from loving and helping those in need, like the Priest and the Levite. The true character of someone comes out especially when they are faced with a situation dealing with a person who is in need, this I believe is the true message that God is trying to show us.