The following is an unsubtle and unbalanced parable that came to me, almost in its entirety, whilst I was taking a walk today at Wadsley Common, enjoying the sunshine and the autumn leaves and the cold crisp air. The parable warns of a trap, a trap I do not believe that the community I am currently a part of has fallen into. But that does not mean that the trap does not exist, and that the path we are on passes nowhere near this trap. I do not think we will fall into it, but we must not be unaware of the enemy’s schemes. Enjoy. I dedicate it to Adrian Plass, for it feels like something he would write.
Once, not too long ago, a man had to cross on foot across a large section of town late at night. The reason he had to do it is unimportant to the story, but let us say that it was urgent.
However, on his way, as he passed through some dark side street, he was set upon by a group of thugs whose football team had lost that night, and they’d had a bit too much to drink and had finally been kicked out the pub. They felt like taking some money and doing a bit of violence, and this man allowed them to realise both goals at once. They took his wallet, and his iPhone, and kicked him a bit, and ran off, and he lay there on the ground, moaning and bleeding a bit.
Well, despite the fact that it was night and it was a side street, it wasn’t too long before another man walked along. He had just come out of a dynamic church meeting where there was a lot of moving and shaking going on, and so it had run long, and he was late.
“Help,” the beaten man cried out as he saw the passerby.
“Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. Are you okay?”
“No, for I have been set upon and beaten and robbed. Please help me, sir.”
“Ah, well, you see, I’m not really into pastoral care. That’s not my…I’m more of an apostle, you see. I see the big picture–the nations, moves of God, whatnot. The apostolic. But you know what, I’ll call our pastoral leader, and I’ll see if he can come down and take care of you. Okay?” And he set on his way, dialing the phone as he departed.
The man lying in the street was confused by this speech; not being a religious man, it didn’t make a lot of sense to him, and after all, all he wanted was someone to help him up and get him to a hospital, or maybe call an ambulance or something. But the apostle had not waited for his response.
Fortunately, it was only another minute or two before a second man came along.
“Help,” our victim groaned. ”Please help me.”
The new pedestrian looked down at him, lying in the road, and seemed to have compassion.
“Help you? Wow, certainly I will help you.”
“Oh, thank you.”
“No problem. Teaching is my strength, you see, and I’m going to teach you how to avoid being in these situations ever again. I have three points, all beginning with the letter F, plus a personal story and an emotional video that will all equip you to never end up like this again. Sound good?”
“Er…” the man replied, after he spat out a little blood. ”I could see the value in that, but…right now I’d just like help. Like, call the police or something.”
The teacher stared at him. ”Well, if you’re unteachable, there’s nothing I can really do for you.” And he left.
Soon, a third man approached the robbery victim, and he felt hope, for he remembered hearing a similar story somewhere and it seems like the third guy was the one who actually did something.
Alas, it was not to be so.
This new man spoke before even a “Help” could be uttered.
“I discern that you need some help.”
“Yes,” said the man, looking up from the road hopefully.
“You know how I knew that? Discernment. I have the gift of discernment! Isn’t it amazing! Unfortunately, helping people on the street isn’t my passion at all. No, my zone of anointing is more in, like, music and reaching musicians, and also in leading meetings and being up in front of people and just generally seeing stuff happen in a really public way. If I stopped to help you now, I wouldn’t be doing the things that really make me tick, and that’s just draining, and plus I’m not sure how I could ever tell anyone without it sounding like bragging. And if people never know, what’s the point? So I’m just going to act like I didn’t see you. I’m sure you understand?” He waited for a response.
“Seriously?” our protagonist asked. It was all he could muster, and the other man walked off, presumably to return to doing whatever made him tick.
Finally, a few minutes later, a fourth man came along, wearing a nice suit with a lapel pin. He saw the man, and quickly called the police. He sat with the man until they came along, tending his wounds as best as he could. The fourth man, who went by the name Brother Yi, was tired, for he and his partner had been out all day passing out The Watchtower, but he was always willing to stop and help someone in need…
Now, which of these men showed he was a neighbour?