My chocolate drink was hot, too hot to drink. So I just held it in my hands, using the warmth to defrost my fingers.
Beyond the Hot Chocolate
By Anna Bartlett
My chocolate drink was hot, too hot to drink. So I just held it in my hands, using the warmth to defrost my fingers. Some classmates and I were downtown in the city working on our photography assignment. I had ducked inside a coffee shop to warm up and wait for my friends who were still outside snapping pictures. I watched the icy wind tugging at their hats and vaporizing their breath while I held my hot chocolate. In a few minutes they joined me by the window, but they acted uncertain, whispering among themselves. Then they turned to me.
“There’s a homeless guy out there. He’s all hunched against the cold. If we buy him something warm, would you help take it to him? We’re afraid to go by ourselves.”
“Sure,” I said.
Hot chocolate and cookies were purchased, and we tried to come up with a relevant Bible verse to write on a napkin. Eventually we gave up and headed out with the treats. Most of us stood back while two of us approached the man—we didn’t want to intimidate him. He accepted the warm drink graciously.
We shot the rest of our rolls of film and went home to our warm beds feeling like good Samaritans. We’d done a good deed.
Several months passed before I was downtown again, and I had forgotten about that freezing night by the coffee shop until I saw him. It was the same man. Same matted hair, same drab clothes, and same spot on the bridge. I was shocked. This was the same person for whom we had bought the hot chocolate. What was he doing here? All the stories I’d read about good Samaritans ended with the helped person’s life changed and the good Samaritan enjoying warm fuzzy feelings. This just didn’t feel right.
The Rest of the Story
The person who caused Jesus to tell the parable of the good Samaritan was a lawyer asking the Master what he had to do to “inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25). In return, Jesus probed the lawyer about the law. The man quoted Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.”
“Right answer,” Jesus responded. “Do those things, and you will live.”
But the lawyer asked for clarification, so Jesus told the story of a traveler who gets robbed, beaten, and left for dead by the side of the road. Several well-meaning Jews saw the injured man as they traveled the same road, but chose to pass him by. Then a Samaritan saw the injured man and immediately provided help (Luke 10:30-33). The Samaritan cleaned the man’s wounds and put ointment on them; yet he didn’t just patch up the person and left him; he helped the hurt man get up, put him on his own animal, and continued his journey with him. When they eventually arrived at an inn, once again the Samaritan did not abandon his friend but paid the innkeeper to look after him until he would return (verse 35).
Jesus then asked who in the story had treated the injured person right. The lawyer answered that it was the one who had shown mercy to the individual. “Go and do likewise,” said Jesus (verse 37).
More Than a Drive-by
Jesus did not only answer the lawyer’s question on how to live in a way that will fit us for heaven in the parable of the good Samaritan. He also showed us how we can be available for people in need.
Before Jesus even started the story He reinforced what the lawyer already knew. In order to truly connect with others, we must first be connected to God. Once we recognize our desperate need of God, we can then share (a glimpse of) God’s love with others. Purposefully using a non-Jew, a Samaritan, as the centerpiece of His story, Jesus showed His audience that their version of loving others was broken.
When the good Samaritan saw someone in need, he stopped what he was doing and provided immediate help. However, this wasn’t just a drive-by act of charity. The good Samaritan didn’t just help his neighbor with his immediate need and leave him in the dust. He picked up his neighbor and brought him along for the journey.
The good Samaritan also made a long-term investment in his neighbor. He expended time and resources to make sure his neighbor was OK, then brought him to an inn, where he continued to care for him.
When the good Samaritan was confident that his friend wouldn’t die if left unattended, he entrusted him to the care of the innkeeper. But the story doesn’t end there. The good Samaritan didn’t abandon his neighbor to the wiles of those around him; he paid the innkeeper to look after him, and told the innkeeper that he would be checking in to make sure his neighbor was OK and healing properly.
All around us are victims of Satan’s attacks. Like some protagonists in Jesus’ story we often just look and pass them by. Sometimes, following an evangelistic series, those who are baptized into the church don’t stay very long after the series is over because they feel left behind. One small negative experience can cause those “babes in Christ” to give up if there isn’t someone to support them on their journey.
The good Samaritan does more than just help somebody get up. Connected to Christ, he is willing to walk with others all the way. He does more than just see injured people; he meets their immediate needs and helps get them back on the path to salvation. He develops relationships with people and looks after them. He brings them into the company of others and checks back in to make sure they are healing. A good Samaritan becomes a friend and sticks around until those who are hurting can stand up and continue the journey. A good Samaritan friends people to Christ.
After the Hot Chocolate
After I returned home from seeing the man outside the coffee shop for a second time, my mind flooded with all the things I could possibly do to help him. But I realized that my ideas were targeting only his immediate needs. I didn’t even know this man or his story. Suddenly it clicked: I understood that in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals, I would have to do more than just do good deeds. I would have to befriend people and minister to them, bringing them into my life and to the Savior.
The next time I see someone in need, I want to be a true good Samaritan. Someone who doesn’t see people and passes them by, but who offers her utmost to help and brings them along on a journey—a journey that continues beyond the hot chocolate. n
Anna Bartlett was one of the 2014 summer interns at Adventist World.