Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hartford, Have a Heart!

Stunning surveillance video of a street in Hartford, Connecticut from the evening of May 30th shows 78-year-old Angel Torres stepping out to cross a street when suddenly two vehicles came out of "nowhere" and hit Torres tossing him in the air like a rag doll. The two vehicles were driving in a reckless manner including running a red light and driving on the wrong side of the road. Neither vehicle stopped. The video is so heart-stopping because it continues after the hit-and-run accident. Torres lies in the street obviously broken. Cars pass. Trucks pass. One dump truck even pauses briefly and then drives on. People step out of buildings to look, but no one approaches Torres.

FINALLY a police car arrives on the scene! Apparently three 911 calls were placed by by-standers, but NO ONE rushed to Torres' aid until the police arrived. As of yesterday, Torres was in critical condition, fighting for his life and paralyzed from the neck down.

What captured my attention wasn't that Torres was struck or even that the culprit hit and ran though that is a significant issue. What stopped me in my tracks to watch the video is what happened next: NO ONE did anything. It wasn't that no one saw. The video is clear that many someones either drove past or walked near, some even pausing for significant periods of time to gawk but no one helped beyond a 911 call.

The "deja vu" of this event is, of course, Luke 10:25 - 37: the story of the good Samaritan Jesus told. Jesus told this particular parable (a story about common, everyday experience to teach God's truth) to answer two questions:

  • How can I get into God's forever family?
  • Who exactly is "my neighbor"?

Jesus answered the question: "How can I get into God's forever family?" by drawing a legal respnse from the questioner. Jesus throws another question back in response: "What does the Law say?" The answer comes back (directly quoting from the Jewish Law - Deuteronomy 6:5) "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence ... and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself." (vs. 27)

Then the dialogue gets really interesting. Jesus responds, "Good answer! Do it and you'll live." The next sentence reveals the questioner's heart, "Looking for a loophole, he asked, 'And just how would you define neighbor?' " Jesus' answer to that question is the story of the good Samaritan. Remember what happened? It is eerily a precursor to this incident in Hartford, CT!

A man walking on a road (like Angel Torres) is struck by robbers and left for dead. At least two men passed by and intentionally crossed over to the other side of the road to avoid getting too close to the injured man. To make matters worse, these two men were both religious types.

Finally a man came along who was actually a social outcast. He stopped, rendered aid, took the injured man to a place for long-term care and even paid for it all (present and future expenses).

Then Jesus presses his point to the questioner: "What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked ... ? ... Go and do the same." (Scripture quotes taken from or suggested by The Message.)

What was it about that man from Samaria? What is it about the people who passed by in Hartford? It is a matter of heart. The condition of the heart makes all the difference! To callously look suffering in the face and do nothing has eternal consequences! It ranks right up next to loving God to carefully love our neighbor well!

It is easy to pontificate - Hartford, have a heart! It's much harder to apply these principles where you and I live. It may even be costly in time, energy, commitment and expense. But it's not only the right thing, it's the main thing! It's God's thing, and He stands willing and ready to work such restoration in our hearts until we are ready to love our neighbor well!

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