Whenever someone asks, “How are you doing?” my response is never a simple, “Fine, thank you.” Since my response is a bit longer than that, I always stop walking so we have time for my answer and for me to ask about the other person.
The other day as I was going into an office building I met a lady who was on her way out, and she asked how I was doing. In this case, however, before I could even start to answer, much less finish my answer, she was well out of earshot.
As the day wore on, I kept thinking about my encounter with the speeding lady. From her actions, it was clear that she really didn’t care. She was just going through the motions. Making the polite noises, we are expected to make when we meet someone.
There are many stories in the Bible of Jesus healing people. Several of them are interesting because of the way people reacted to these miraculous events. Rather than rejoicing that someone who has suffered for years, maybe decades, and in one case all his life has been cured, the people focused on the fact that Jesus healed them on the Sabbath.
Luke 13:10-14 is one of those stories. It reads, “On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’” (NIV)
Then, of course, there is the story of the Good Samaritan. The story mainly focuses on the Samaritan man and how he helped an injured stranger. However, the first part of the parable is about two men who were just going through the motions.
They both saw the injured man and rather than stop and help, they both crossed over to the other side of the road as they passed the man. These were well-regarded men and had important positions. One was a priest, and both were on their way to some official function and did not help the man for fear of becoming ritualistically unclean.
Jesus demonstrated that loving and caring for people was more important than rules. He met people where they were, welcomed them as he found them, and transformed them through care and love. I invite you to do the same. Instead of just politely going through the motions, take the time to see and hear the people you meet. There is nothing in the story to suggest that they were bad or uncaring men — just that they were more focused on rules than helping and loving. The world has more than enough rules, but there is always room for more love and compassion.
John R. Fowler is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.