Summary: Real Christians display real love to those who need it most.
Kitty Genovese Story
At about 3:20 a.m. on March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old manager of a bar in Queens, New York, returned to her quiet residential neighborhood, parked her car in a lot adjacent to her apartment building, and began to walk the 30 yards through the lot to her door. Noticing a man at the far end of the lot, she paused. When he started toward her, she turned the other way and tried to reach a police call box half a block away. The man caught and stabbed her. She started screaming that she’d been stabbed, and screaming for help,.
Lights went on in the apartment building across the street. Windows opened. One man called out, "Let that girl alone!"
The assailant shrugged and walked away. Windows closed and lights went out. The assailant returned and attacked Genovese again. This time she screamed "I’m dying! I’m dying." This time lots more windows opened and lots more lights went on. The assailant walked to his car and drove away, leaving Ms. Genovese to crawl along the street to her apartment building. Somehow, she managed to drag herself inside.
The assailant returned a third time, found Genovese on the floor at the foot of her stairs, and finally succeeded in killing her.
During those three separate attacks over the course of 35 minutes, not one of Kitty Genovese’s neighbors tried to intervene. No burly neighbor picked up a baseball bat and dashed outside to save her life. Worse than that, of the more than 30 people who saw at least one of the attacks and heard Genovese’s screams and pleas for help, not one of them even called the police. After much deliberation, and one phone call to a friend for advice, one man finally urged another neighbor to call authorities, which she did. Police arrived in two minutes, but by then, it was too late.
Interviewed afterward, the residents admitted, sometimes sheepishly, "I didn’t want to get involved," or "I didn’t want my husband to get involved." One said he was too tired to call police and had gone back to bed. Several couldn’t say why they hadn’t helped. Many of them said they’d been afraid to call. They couldn’t say why, within the safety of their own homes, they had been afraid to call the police – even anonymously.
Many of you have heard this story before. That incident may be the defining moment of urban apathy in the latter half of the twentieth century. When it happened, many thought the incident shocking, bizarre – but not typical of the way people respond. It was the kind of thing that would only happen in a big, bad place like New York City.
“What was wrong with those people, anyway?”
Link to The Good Samaritan
This morning’s familiar story of the Good Samaritan is told in response to a question asked of Jesus by a Jewish lawyer: “What do I have to do to have eternal life?” Basically, he is asking, “What must I do to be saved?”
I’d like to rephrase his question this way, “What things do real Christians do?” It’s the same, isn’t it? If we believe the New Testament, it isn’t just nice people who receive eternal life. The people who are saved are those who have trusted Christ for their salvation.
But the Bible also teaches that those who trust Christ are transformed people. So if they are transformed, surely there should be some evidence of that transformation, right? So where’s the evidence? What’s the proof? What do real Christians do that distinguish them from others? That is the essence of this lawyer’s question, and it is answered in the familiar parable we have come to know as “The Good Samaritan.”
So what do real Christians do? Let’s look and see.
The Lawyer came to test Jesus with a question. This time it may not have been a trap, we don’t really know. When he asked Jesus the question about eternal life, he was asking what Jesus saw as the essential requirements of the Law. I can just see Jesus smiling as he throws the question back in the lawyer’s lap: “How do you interpret it?”
The lawyer’s answer is one we know Jesus would approve: To love God with all your heart, mind, soul & strength; And to love your neighbor as yourself
Jesus Himself had taught that all the Law & the Prophets depend on these two commandments. Like many of us, the Lawyer knew the right answers. But he was totally unprepared for Jesus’ story about what compassion looks like in real life.
Real Christians display real compassion. But what is real compassion? Let’s look at what this parable has to say about it.
Our compassion is to be driven not the “worth” of the recipient (determined by our less than humble opinion) but by the need. The Samaritan knew nothing about this victim. In fact, we know nothing about him either. Jesus just says, “A certain man…” We would probably say, “Some guy…” That’s all he was: just some guy. Just another human being. Maybe a good one. Maybe a bad one.