There's a story I grew up hearing. In it, a man on a journey was waylaid by some thugs who beat him up, then left him bleeding and naked on the side of the road. As he lay there, two separate people came by, a pastor and a religious man, and both crossed by him on the other side, faces averted. Then another man came along, and seeing his plight, he took pity on him. This third man cleaned and bandaged his wounds, then paid a nearby innkeeper to feed and shelter him until he was better.
It is, of course, the story of the Good Samaritan. It's oft repeated in Christian circles. In fact, my pastor used it as a sermon illustration just a few weeks ago. So I can say that up until two days ago, although familiar with the story, I took it literally. Yes, of course, if someone was laying in a ditch, beaten and bruised, I should, and would, help him! Of course, I have never in my life come across this scenario, but I was prepared should it arise.
Two days ago, I was doing a quick notification check on Facebook, when a picture popped up on my newsfeed. It had been posted by a friend of mine on our local 'For Sale' page. It was a picture of her dog, which she was having to get rid of, the post said, because it had taken to killing chickens (both hers, and her neighbor's). On a farm, this is a problem. The post accompanying the picture ended, "If I can't find a home for her, she will have to be put down. This makes me so sad."
Although we're Facebook friends, I don't know the owner of the dog and author of the post very well. Lisa attends the same church I do, and we comment sometimes on each other's status updates. She is a sweet, modest and humble soul with beautiful brown eyes and a singing voice that will knock your socks off. Lisa's more of an acquaintance than anything to me, and I was about to keep scrolling when I saw the first comment on her post:
"This just makes me so angry. This dog trusts you, and you are just going to kill her? Be responsible and if you're not going to take care of your dog, DON'T GET A DOG."
"Ugh. This is horrible. This poor dog."
Something inside of me kindled. I knew Lisa, a sweet woman who loves animals and normally wouldn't hurt a fly, was being unjustly accused by these strangers on Facebook.
"Please be kind, people. Sheesh. I understand your concern for the dog, but it's not productive to sit behind a keyboard and type borderline bullying comments. If you really are concerned, give helpful advise or adopt the dog yourself."
Well, that stirred up a cloud of back-and-forth comments, which I bowed out of after reposting the same sentiment three different times, in three different ways.
Afterwards, when the emotions had simmered down and I was able to look at the incident objectively, I began to doubt that I had done the right thing. Verses like, "turn the other cheek", and, "pray for those who persecute you" kept returning to my mind. Should I have just kept quiet? Was I going against Jesus' teaching in writing those comments? And yet, even as I asked myself those questions, a resounding, "NO!" rose up inside of me. I knew it had to be wrong to let Lisa get verbally abused online by people who really just wanted to stir up strife.
Then I asked myself - as a Christian, should Lisa have just let it happen to her? Should I, as a Christian, have just let it happen to her as well? Is there no room in our faith for the opposition of bullies? Are we called to just be doormats? And if we are, is that a faith I want to subscribe to?
It was in that place of questioning that the parable of the Good Samaritan came to me. And it was suddenly illuminated, as if my whole entire life I had never understood its meaning until that very moment. Lisa was the man by the side of the road. She was being kicked, beaten, and robbed emotionally. As I came across her post, I had a choice. Would I avert my eyes, lift up the hem of my robe, and scroll on by, citing 'turning the other cheek' as an excuse to not get involved? Or would I get into the fray, risk getting some blood on my hands and maybe taking a punch or two myself, in order to help a sister in need?
I realized that as long as I spoke the truth ... in love, said what needed to be said ... while resisting the urge to throw nasty verbal punches of my own, I was fulfilling Christ's commands. Jesus doesn't call us to be doormats, neither does He call us to jump into every fight we come across. Let love be the guiding principle that drives our actions, and led by the Spirit, we won't go wrong.