If, by God’s grace, you aren’t the one in three or four who have experienced abuse, you might not know what to do to help. On the Time of Grace podcast, Pastor Mike suggested we remember the parable Jesus told of the good Samaritan.
A man fell into the hands of thieves who beat him, robbed him, and left him for dead. Two men passed him without helping, but a Samaritan man bandaged the man’s wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to get help, and paid for his care. Pastor Mike said, “It is our privilege and blessing and duty to slow down, get our hands dirty, take the coins out of our pocket and the time out of our day, and love those who need loving.”
In Jesus’ parable two men passed the injured man. Perhaps they didn’t have time. Maybe they had a long to-do list. It seems unbelievable, but I’m guessing we’re guilty of passing hurting people too.
People don’t usually open up the first time we talk to them, and it’s unlikely to happen if they sense we’re in a hurry. Trust has to be established, and that takes time and several conversations. Do you have time to stick around after church or Bible study to have conversations? Do you notice someone in the neighborhood or workplace looking agitated or worried? To be willing to get your hands dirty means going toward the messy situations instead of avoiding them. It also means being invested for the long haul.
On average, a victim of abuse leaves an abusive situation seven times before getting away from their abuser. From the outside, it might seem crazy to go back that often. In truth, it’s far more complicated than most of us realize. In the home setting, there are often children and pets to consider, perhaps family heirlooms, and more often than not, little or no access to money. If abuse happens in the workplace, there could be health insurance or pension implications to consider. And when it happens in the church or Christian school setting, leaving might mean walking away from friends and a way of life children have always known.
Very often friends give up. After the abused person goes back for the third or fourth time, our tendency is to say we tried. If they aren’t going to listen anyway, then they can find another friend. Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times—not just the first or second time, but every time—as a confused brother or sister tries to work things out.
But sometimes, even in the church, it’s not that we’ve given up. Too often we refused to get involved in the first place. It’s almost like Jesus knew this would be a problem. The two men in his story who deliberately avoided the injured man were a priest and a Levite: believers, churchgoers, men who dedicated their lives to God.
Not getting involved means we knowingly or inadvertently side with the abuser. Pastor Mike reminded me of the importance of being that friend, the one who stands by the victim and says, “It’s not OK, even if it’s the pastor, the church president, the called worker, or the woman who helps out at church all the time.” Refusing to stand up and defend the person validates the abuser and perpetuates the abuse.
We tend to think being a good Samaritan is about stopping to help a stranger change a tire. But it’s really about noticing the downtrodden. It’s getting involved, staying when most people would walk away, helping them as they weigh options, and praying with and for her/him.
You may remember the parable of the good Samaritan came about because an expert in the law wanted to justify himself before Jesus. He knew the law said to love God and love your neighbor. But who was his neighbor? Who ought he to love?
In response Jesus told the parable and then asked the man, “‘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).
The easiest thing is to pretend nothing is happening. That’s not the route Jesus told us to take. “Go and do likewise” means going into the messy places and bringing hope and healing to the world in Jesus’ name.