I read the story of the good Samaritan this morning and was struck by Jesus’ words.  Three times in the story He says  “and when he saw him…” and it is there at the end of that phrase, as Jesus takes a breath, that I see my responses to suffering.

For the priest, “when he saw him”…he passed by on the other side.

For the Levite, “when he saw him”…he passed by on the other side.

Sometimes my response to suffering and sin is to pass by on the other side.  I don’t want to deal with it at that moment; I don’t want to add another item to my already long list of things to do.  Sometimes I wrestle with feelings of inadequacy – “what can I really do for this person?”  I can’t fix it all and even if I helped in this one situation, there are thousands more stories just like it.  I can fall into depair at the darkness in the world and my small place on the planet.  I forget that a little light is better than none at all.

And then there is the Samaritan.  “When he saw him….he felt compassion”.

To feel compassion is to enter into the brokenness and suffering.  It is to acknowledge that the world is not as it should be, that sin and suffering are prevalent and to feel the weight of its harshness.  It is that wave of compassion, at that moment, that keeps us from stepping off the curb to cross to the other side.

But even compassion alone is not enough because it can turn to an sentimentality really quickly.  It can become what Jesus elsewhere warned about – seeing someone in need and saying “I’ll pray for them” without helping if I have the means.  It is on this note that I was most convicted as a mom.

My children are often moved to compassion by the stories we hear around us in our community and our world (isn’t that why Jesus said we should become like little children?).  They would love to give and help every person “left for half-dead” (to use Luke’s words).  But do I give them the opportunity?  Do I teach them to bury their compassion and pass by on the other side?  Or worse yet, do I love that they feel compassion and yet do not help them do something with that compassion?

Because the next thing that Samaritan did was…”and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds…”  He didn’t allow compassion to sink down into a sugary platitude but gave it legs and hands and turned compassion into its mature form.  Action.

O Lord, help me in obedience,  in my own life and as I mother my children, do exactly what You said at the end of this story.  “Go and do the same”.