Sunday, March 2, 1997

Luke 10:30 – Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead."

I have a T-shirt that declares that I was stoned – at a variety of places to be checked off, for example, Jerusalem, Jericho, Hebron, Nazareth and so on. I checked off Jericho and Jerusalem for events of a couple years ago.

We were reminded of the biblical fellow who journeyed down from Jerusalem to Jericho – down that main road from the city in the hills to that other city close to the Jordan river where there must have been a river crossing to take the Jerusalem-Jericho traders into the country to the east. At the time that the biblical fellow was travelling, the road would not have been the high-speed four-lane road that it is now. On the other hand, it would have been more like the district roads in the Bedouin hills of Samaria a few hundred metres off on either side of the modern four-lane road. The Bedouin tents would not have had television aerials sticking up, nor rubber-tired water tanks parked in their front yards. But the general desert desolation would have been the same, with every blade of grass trimmed neatly to the ground by sheep grazing in the parched hills and valleys.

It is hard, sometimes, to make connections in this crazy world of ours, but it is not hard to imagine car-jackings taking place on that four-lane road today, as the modern analogue of the assault that the biblical fellow sustained. A person coming upon the scene of a car-jacking assault would, of course, use his/her cell phone to summon help for the victim.

My "stoned" shirt came from a tiny little shop in the old city of East Jerusalem, in the Arab/Palestinian sector. And nearby there was a sidewalk vendor from whom I got a carved camel carrying water jars. This camel came from Hebron, 30 or 40 kilometres away. The vendor was sad because the carving was done by his father in Hebron, and it was very difficult for Palestinians to get in and out of Hebron. It was even worse for the people in Hebron because tourists were not visiting there, for the same reason. Times were tough. That's why he was working the sidewalks in East Jerusalem.

So what's the point of it all? Violence and compassion, I suppose. There is surely no need for more violence, and the world could use a great deal more compassion these days, when all social decisions seem to be driven by a modern bottom-line mentality. The fellow on the Jerusalem road was not into bottom-line thinking at the time of Christ's parable, nor was his rescuer.

Accountants have never been very effective in building compassion into their analyses of the functioning of socioeconomic systems. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a way of doing so. I expect there are academic committees somewhere that definitely rule out compassion as anything worthy of attention. How does one enter a debit/credit item for a compassionate event? Or for the compassionate component of a standard transaction? What shekel/dollar value does it have? Yet, in the end, the element of compassion in a transaction may be far more important than the free-market evaluation of the event itself.

Prayer: Gracious God, help us see our way clearly through the confusion of the day to recognize what is good and worthy. Amen.

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Gordon Hodgson

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