May We Never Turn Away from Those in Need

A reflection from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Lord pays attention to the godly and hears their cry for help. But the Lord opposes evildoers and wipes out all memory of them from the earth. The godly cry out and the Lord hears; he saves them from all their troubles. The Lord is near the broken-hearted; he delivers those who are discouraged. The godly face many dangers, but the Lord saves them from each one of them. He protects all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil people self-destruct; those who hate the godly are punished. The Lord rescues his servants; all who take shelter in him escape punishment.

Psalm 34:15-22 (NET)

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” 

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:25-37 (RSV)  

Reflection: The priest and Levite who walk by on the other side may have had good religious reasons for not helping: they may have been ready to perform certain religious rituals and might have risked ritual defilement if the man had been dead. Yet on many occasions, Jesus is critical of religious leadership for placing the rules of religion ahead of the obligation to always do good. 

The beginning of the text for the Week of Prayer (Luke 10:25-37) tells us how the teacher of the law wanted to justify himself. The priest and the Levite in the parable would have felt justified in what they had done.

 As Christians, how far are we prepared to go beyond convention? Sometimes our ecclesial and culturally conditioned short-sightedness can prevent us from seeing what is being revealed by the life and witness of sisters and brothers of other Christian traditions. When we open our eyes to see how God’s love is revealed by our fellow Christians, we are drawn closer to them and so are drawn into deeper union with them. 

This parable of Jesus not only challenges us to do good, but also to widen our vision. We do not only learn what is good and holy from those who share our confessional or religious worldview, but often from those different from ourselves. The Good Samaritan is often the one we do not expect. 

Prayer Lord Jesus Christ, as we journey with you towards unity, may our eyes not look away, but be wide open to the world. As we travel through life, may we stop and reach out, bind up the wounded and in so doing experience your presence in them: you who live and reign for ever and ever. Amen.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2024

January 18-25, 2024

You shall love the Lord your God … 
and your neighbor as yourself

Luke 10:27


This Scripture reflection is excerpted from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reflection for Sunday January 21, 2024.

Top image credit: Illustration of helping hands together lifting up the downtrodden, image from, © by gualtiero boffi, stockphoto ID: 7864282. Used with permission.

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