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Go and Do Likewise

“[Jesus asked] Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭10:30-37‬ ‭NIV‬‬ (Jesus to the religious leader after telling the story of the Good Samaritan)

In the early 1970s on the campus of Princeton University at the Princeton Theological Seminary two behavioral scientists, John Darley and Daniel Batson put the story of the Good Samaritan to the test (In Jesus’s story two of the three men — who happen to be high on the religious ladder — walk by a victim in need, while the less-highly thought of Samaritan serves and rescues him).

They asked a group of seminary students (those studying to become pastors) to meet with a researcher in one building before being sent to another building. Some were told they needed to hurry to the next meeting while others were told they could take their time. As they were walking to the next building they encountered a victim in need laying in a narrow walkway on their path. [1]

Would they stop or essentially walk over the person in need?

The sad fact is that the majority, nearly 60% failed to stop and help the victim. [2] The biggest impact on those who did stop had nothing to do with how “religious” they were and more with whether or not they were told to hurry to the next task. They were inattentionally blind to the neighbor quite literally in their path.

The Gorrilla in the Room

What if the reason we tend to miss acting on opportunities to help others in need is because we look right past them? In a series of studies, psychologists researched what participants would notice when tasked with focusing on something. In one study they were told to watch a video of people passing a basketball and to keep track of throws versus bounce passes.

Following the video they were asked if they saw anything abnormal in the video and approximately 50% reported seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Only something quite strange had happened in the video — someone dressed in a gorilla suit actually strolls through the action, turns to the camera, thumps its chest and then walks away. Half the participants failed to notice this. Arien Mack, Ph.D and Irvin Rock, Ph.D. labeled this phenomenon “inattentional blindness” in their research as subjects had an inability to see something that should have been obviously noticed. [3]

So how do we start seeing the gorilla in the room and start acting like God intended us to? Author Kevin Ashton in his recent book “How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery” gives this great reminder, “You get to consciously decide what has meaning, and what doesn’t. When we change what has meaning, we change what we see.”

In Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan, the priest, the Levite and the Good Samaritan all saw the beaten stranger on the side of the road. But the Good Samaritan gave greater meaning to providing love and mercy to his neighbor than to religious or social duties. Maybe we can start being more like the Good Samaritan by taking steps to do the right thing even when it’s not easy.

Sight to the Blind

It was pitch dark but that didn’t matter. It was time to get to work, at 3:00 in the morning. Then at 7:00am he would clock out and make his way to school. Leslie Adindu was a teenager, left by his father in Fort Worth, Texas who had moved to New Orleans after a family dispute. The rest of his family was thousands of miles away in Nigeria. So the young man did what he could to survive homelessness. He worked because it was a requirement to stay at his shelter. He studied and went to school. And after growing two inches taller to 6’3 and nearly 100lbs larger at 285lbs he caught the eye of a coach.

When Phil Young, Head Coach at Arlington Heights High School saw the much larger Adindu he didn’t recognize him. The year before, when another coach had encouraged the young man to try playing football he had no idea what the rules were or even how to put the pads on. Now a legal adult at 19 years old Adindu was over the age to be allowed to play in games.

“My heart broke,” Young said. “I thought football would help Leslie’s chances of getting out of his situation. But after a few minutes I realized just because he couldn’t play games didn’t mean we couldn’t help him.” [4]

Some coaches might have walked to the other side of the road and simply wished the young man luck but Young didn’t. Adindu did his part and worked hard in practice and Young had him participate in taped scrimmages to send out to college coaches. He contacted every coach he and his staff knew. After a year of hard work and battling through his circumstances Leslie Adindu recently signed his National Letter of Intent with Southwest Baptist University. Thanks to a coach who gave meaning to serving and helping a young man who needed a break he is now on a better path.

Eyes Wide Open

It’s easy to miss what’s in front of us when we are hurried, stressed or thinking only of ourselves. Coach Young and Leslie Adindu show us what is possible when we keep our purpose aligned with our vision. Keep your eyes fixed on God and you won’t miss the gorrilla-sized mercy and grace opportunities all around you. And like the Good Samaritan you’ll bring even greater honor to Him by helping those who need it most.


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