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What Do You See When You See People?

What Do You See When You See People?

As I reflect on this parable, I am struck by the fact that the three men walking on the road all saw the injured man. In fact, the Greek text of Luke uses the exact same word to depict the visual experience of the priest, the Temple assistant (Levite), and the Samaritan. Each of these people had the experience of “seeing” (idon)  the wounded man.

Yet, though they literally saw the same thing, in a deeper sense, they saw quite differently. What did the priest and Temple assistant see? Not just a needy man, but an inconvenience, a hassle, perhaps a danger or a trap. They saw something to be avoided, something that could mess up their plans and even their well-being.

What did the Samaritan see? Jesus says, literally, “seeing, he had compassion.” The Greek verb “to have compassion” means something like “his heart was moved” (though it technically means “his guts were moved.”) The Samaritan saw with an open heart. He saw neither a hated Jew nor an inconvenience nor a threat, but rather a human being who needed help. He saw an opportunity to care for a man in need. He saw not just with his eyes and not just with his calculating brain, but with an open, tender heart.

Do we see people in this way? How do I see the people in my life: my wife and children, my colleagues at work, my literal neighbors, the plumber who fixed my pipes recently, the checkout clerk in the minimart who always looks so sad? Am I prepared to see with an open heart? Or is my life too busy for compassion?

- Mark D. Roberts, Daily Reflection for April 08, 2011