by David Phelps

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa

April, 1998

Not long ago, my wife, Charlotte, was telling our five-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Monica, the story of "the Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:30-37). She told Monica that the men who attacked and robbed the traveler in the story left the man "half dead" (Luke 10:30).

Innocently, Monica asked, "What part of him was dead, Mommy?" We had a good laugh about Monica's misunderstanding and Charlotte explained to Monica what she meant by "half dead."

I'm sure we would all like to think that if we saw someone who was "half dead," we would respond like the Good Samaritan and not like the priest or the Levite. But the truth is that we pass by people in need -- and ignore their plight -- every day. It may be that our own resources are stretched thin: We don't have the money or the time or the energy. Or it might be that we simply don't have the will.

It may also be that we don't recognize their situation. After Charlotte had explained the phrase to Monica, I thought facetiously about how I might have answered: "Well, his right arm was dead and his left leg and one of his ears." What if Monica's interpretation is more correct than I originally thought? Someone might look fine on the outside and yet some part of them might be dead: Their ears might be dead, so that they can't hear the cries of people in need around them. Their eyes might be dead, so that they can't see the injustices in the world. Their heart might be dead, so that they're unable to love or feel loved. Their hope might be dead, so that they're unable to go on living. Or their soul might be dead, so that they're unable to experience or respond to God's love.

People all around us are in one or another of these categories, and yet we do nothing, because we're too busy or we don't recognize their need or we're afraid of offending them. If one of us saw someone about to step in front of a speeding automobile, we'd drop what we were doing and stop them and we wouldn't worry about whether we might offend them in the process. Every day, we see people heading toward spiritual death and we do nothing for them. Their situation is truly "a matter of life and death." We don't talk much anymore about someone's soul being saved but this is exactly why Christ came into the world (John 3:17). And it's exactly why Christ sends us into the world as well.

As we approach Easter, we remember the one who sends us as he sent the first disciples, the one who died that we might live. The one who said "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die." (John 11:25b-26a) calls us to follow him and bring new life to a half dead world.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him the authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:24-27 RSV)


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