It was a Wednesday night. I had just finished getting dinner with some friends downtown to celebrate a birthday. My roommate and I paid our bill, left the restaurant and headed down the block to her car. As we were walking, a woman approached and I knew she was going to say something to us, just as she had to a girl who had already passed by. She had a scarf wrapped over her head, sweats on, and looked intently at us. "Could you help me get something to eat?," she said. We paused and I spoke up and said, "I don't have any cash, I'm sorry." I lied. I had $10 in my wallet. We passed the woman, and stopped at the crosswalk. Ugh I lied, I thought. I didn't know what else to say. I could've easily gotten her something to eat... but I didn't. As we walked, I continued to make up excuses for why I didn't say yes to the woman. I was kind of scared. You never know what people might do. I just spent money on dinner. What if she really didn't need it. Stupid excuses. I pictured how much more it would've meant to the woman if I had said yes, taken her to the restaurant across the street, bought her a burrito, and sat down with her in a booth to ask her about her life. To sit with a stranger and acknowledge that they are somebody, that you care, that they aren't just a needy person on the street continually getting shut down by people who just pass by. I continued to think about this woman the rest of that night and the next morning, I sat at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee, and I thought of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
“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. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 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 10:30-37
Just like the beaten man, the woman I passed was in physical need. Just like the priest and the Levite, I selfishly passed this woman by. I missed an opportunity; an opportunity to witness to the woman, an opportunity for her to possibly see the light of Jesus in someone else, an opportunity to just make her day better, an opportunity for her to know that there are people in this world who care, who will give up the time and the money they have to those in need.
In church on Sunday, I was reminded of this woman again. Pastor J.D. preached about the 8 Beatitudes that Jesus preached to His disciples on the Sermon at the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11).
His commentary on verse 4 especially stuck out to me.
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." - Matthew 5:4
Here's what J.D. had to say,
"Jesus doesn't say why we are mourning here. But mourning goes along with being poor in the spirit. When you feel powerless, weak, and unrighteous you mourn... and God comforts you. But I also think, based on Jesus' future teaching, that mourning means a willingness to enter the pain of others and mourn with them. So write this down: 'Mourning means being relationally connect to others.' I think of Jesus' most famous parable, the Story of the Good Samaritan. Two men pass by, and one stops to help. He didn't have to. He didn't know this guy. There were probably lots of excuses why he shouldn't. He had other stuff to do. It was dangerous. Costly."
Wow, I thought. The fact that the Story of the Good Samaritan has come up twice this week... that is not a coincidence, I know.
God used the woman on the street to remind me to live differently. I will mess up. I am not perfect. None of us are. I do not have to check "helped a woman on the street" on any checklist to earn heaven. By the grace of God, I do not have to rely on myself and the things that I do to gain salvation. But I am reminded that faith without works is dead. And God still calls us, as His disciples, to be set apart. To live our lives in grateful response to the mercy that Jesus has given us. To live differently. I was that woman in the street. I was in need, hungering for something more. Jesus did not pass me by, but He embraced me and all of my imperfections in His arms and showed me mercy.
Lord, help us to be unto others as you have been to us. Teach us how to embrace those who are hurting and those who are in need with open arms. Our world is hurting, our country is hurting, and we know we need you. We need you to intervene, to guide us, and show us how to be a light of You to others. Help us live in response to your grace and when we encounter people in need, give us the ability to say yes. Amen.