Do you love your neighbor?
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” —Aesop
In 1973, some researchers conducted an experiment at Princeton Theological Seminary. A group of students was selected, and each one was told they were to go across campus to deliver a sermon on the topic of the Good Samaritan. As part of the research, a third of the students were told they were very late and needed to hurry.
Along the route, the researchers had hired an actor to play the role of a victim, doubled over coughing.
Ninety percent of the “late” students in Princeton Theology Seminary—though they were concentrating on the story of the Good Samaritan—ignored the needs of the suffering person in their path as they hurried across campus. On several occasions, the seminary student literally stepped over the victim. In all, about 40% of the students stopped to help.
Luke records the passage those students were asked to communicate. What’s important to notice of Jesus’ teaching is what occasioned it. He had just taught, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).
Jesus went on to say: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him” (Luke 10:30-33).
It’s easy to attribute all sorts of motives to the “religious folks” who passed by the needy man in their path. Perhaps they were so preoccupied they failed to truly notice him. Maybe they were afraid. It could be—like the college students in the Princeton study—they were in a hurry and couldn’t be inconvenienced.
When Jesus finished the story, He brought the matter home: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:36-37).
How often do you suppose it is that we walk down paths in this life stepping over a neighbor in need? It may be that we don’t stop because we’re preoccupied, scared, or in a hurry. There’s no shortage of excuses—some of them may indeed be valid—but the heart of our Lord is revealed in this: Love your neighbor as yourself.
My prayer this week—Gracious Lord, thank you for stooping to meet me in my need! Will you develop in me a more sincere heart for others—to love my neighbors as you love them? Will you open my eyes to see the places you may be at work in people’s lives, and give me the patience and courage not to pass by?