37 Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
— Luke 10: 37 (Common English Bible)
The word triage comes from the French, TRIER ‘, meaning, to separate out. The current sense dates from the 1930s, from the military system of assessing the wounded on the battlefield. One system of triage that is often used in Emergency Rooms, separates people out by colored tags, depending on the urgency of their ailment.
Red tags – are used to label those who cannot survive without immediate treatment but who have a chance of survival.
Yellow tags – are for those who require observation. Their condition is stable for the moment and, they are not in immediate danger of death.
Green tags – are reserved for the “walking wounded” who will need medical care at some point, after more critical injuries have been treated.
White tags – are given to those with minor injuries for whom a doctor’s care is not required.
Black tags – are used for the deceased and for those whose injuries are so extensive that they will not be able to survive given the care that is available.
The victim in today’s Gospel has been beaten and left bleeding on the side of a road. If someone had carried him to an ER today, he likely would have been triaged as a top priority depending on whether or not someone else in the ER was complaining of chest pain.
When you live in a city like Detroit, or Ann Arbor, or Ypsilanti you might never make it to your office on time if you stopped for every individual with a need. Furthermore, depending on the type of work you do, as in a medical professional there may well be people waiting for you at work whose wounds are in the same category as the person on the side of the road. We all have hard decisions to make every day based on what we witness and whose needs are such that without help, they may die or suffer so much that they fail to thrive in life.
It’s admirable to help if and when you can. And its ok when you cannot. It’s complicated. And one way to sort through things that are complicated is to follow where love leads us.
The story of the Good Samaritan is one in which we so desperately hope to be that Samaritan and…we often so easily judge others who are not.
Some commentators give the priest and Levite a pass citing their religious purity restrictions — they could not have touched another man’s blood. That is a reason– but it’s not an excuse to cross to the other side. The man in our story was naked and bleeding and no religion, or having no religion, should keep you from helping.
Of course, it’s possible that the priest or Levite were on their way to a meeting or gathering where they would be addressing the ongoing issue of gangs of thugs who rob travelers and leave them for dead by the side of the road. That too, would be important. Though in triage terms, it would not even be assigned a color.
Thankfully the lawyer in our story sets us up by asking, “What must I do to inherit the kingdom?” Of course, he was testing Jesus, and, it was a good question! How many times have you had to choose between two critical things? How many times have you been somewhere you chose to be, all the while thinking you should be somewhere else?
The answer to the question lies in defining “neighbor.” Once we define neighbor, we can simplify the question for our use today, since we know the top-level priority for disciples of Jesus Christ is to love your neighbor.
So perhaps today we would instead ask this question: which neighbor is love leading me to at this moment? Which neighbor is in the most critical condition right now?
Some believe that the reason the Samaritan…a man from Samaria…a people the world loved to hate…was the one to apply the balm of love and care to his neighbor who was bleeding out, was precisely because he KNEW what it was to be ignored…to have people cross the road to pass you by on the other side. He knew what it was to be considered unclean and unworthy of compassion. The Samaritan was Good because he acted from his empathy. He acted on the law to love thy neighbor with no thought of justifying why he shouldn’t.
It often seems that the more someone has, the more easily they cross to the other side of the road, when passing by someone in need, especially if that someone comes from a region that others say is unworthy of our compassion.
In 2004, Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was convicted of forcing himself on young girls.
This week we have watched people from both sides of the political aisle essentially cross to the other side of the road, failing to advocate for more than 40 young girls who were molested and raped by a man AND a system stacked against vulnerable women. Epstein had friends in high places who thought the girls he victimized were unworthy of protection and compassion.
The response of those who looked away as he carried out his crimes with hundreds of children in numerous places should have been simple. You don’t prey on children. Period.
A hatred of a people based on the region from which they come is what is fueling those in power to try to justify detaining children of immigrants in camps ill-equipped to provide them the basic necessities of life. Lawyers, doctors, religious leaders, congress-people, the ACLU, and Amnesty International have all now visited these camps and documented the inhumane conditions in which we are holding both children and their parents, apart from one another, while our elected officials and those who support them not only cross the road to avoid looking at their suffering, but impose laws to secure that their suffering continues and that the population at these prisons continues to grow.
Friday night, we witnessed an entire world rise up against these camps. 743 Candle-light Vigils in numerous countries were held to shine light on these crimes against humanity being carried out by our government. And this is a situation in which love leads us to speak up, to show up, and to administer whatever care is possible for those unjustly imprisoned, and suffering from overcrowded cells, inadequate food, and a lack of access to clean, running water.
The Sign by the road that promotes our church, currently has these words on it:
You Have The Right To Remain…
You have the right…to remain. To be. To exist. To live!
You have the right to remain…silent. Because this administration has authorized more ICE raids, beginning tonight, that inflict terror on immigrant families, some whose only “crime” is living in the United States without proper documentation. It is worth noting that those who would imprison or deport these individuals had no problem using them for labor when it was convenient for them to do so.
Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about how our silence in the face of injustice, makes us complicit:
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
You have the right to remain silent reminds those who fear being arrested by ICE agents that silence is always an option – for them.
It is not an option for those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus.
We have heard the stories now and seen the photos of mothers and fathers who have served this country well—physicians, teachers, pastors, soldiers, being taken away in ICE vans. The Rev. Betty Rendon, a beloved colleague, who was beginning her doctoral work in Chicago while leading an active congregation, was recently deported to Colombia along with her husband. They had lived in the United States since 2004. They were not permitted to say goodbye to their daughter or granddaughter.
We do need to address immigration reform so that the process to become a citizen is more efficient and accessible. But first we need to allow love to lead us to ensure that those within our borders seeking refuge are treated humanely and afforded dignity.
I invite you to return to this parable and imagine that you, or God-forbid, your child, is the one who has been left for dead in a ditch.
- How would you want to be treated?
- How would Jesus treat your child if he found them bleeding and broken?
- Would Jesus dress your wounds?
- Would he offer your chld refuge?
It is time for each of us to ask ourselves: What am I willing to risk for the sake of those who, left untreated, may well die or suffer permanently from the wounds being inflicted by our government and the elite 1% of our population who have the means to help, but instead choose to profit, from the suffering of those they deem unworthy of life’s most basic necessities.
Jesus’ call to us in the Good Samaritan parable is clear: finish the story.
Go and do likewise.
It is by God’s grace that we are called to be the ones who do not look way, and do not pass idly by.