Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10:36-37 (NRSV)
Because we are privy to the full story as Jesus told it, we know what happened what happened to the man who "was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho." [He] "fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead." But the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan did not know. Each simply saw a person in serious need and responded in some way--two ignored the man in need and passed by; one, the Samaritan, helped the man. It is clear both from the context and from Jesus' commentary on the story that it is the Samaritan who acted rightly. He did not succumb to fear for his own safety; he set aside his own plans; he sacrificed his own financial resources; he "showed mercy" to the man in need. He did not "[pass] by on the other side."
In Jesus' parable, it was the obviously religious who passed by, who intentionally stayed out of the situation. We, as people of faith, as peacemakers, should not repeat their mistake; we cannot simply pass by on the other side; we cannot stand by the sidelines as the debate over health care reform proceeds in our nation.
The situation in our nation is not unlike that presented by Jesus in the parable. For the man in the parable the situation was one of life and death; so it is with today's health care system in the United States. It is estimated that there are approximately 18,000 premature deaths due to the lack of access to and high cost of health care. People who need health care, but cannot afford it, forgo or delay seeking care and either worsen or die.
I have stated before in this column that, "Peace is not just part of God's plan. It is God's plan." (see PeaceSigns, February 2006). By this I mean that peace as shalom is God's overriding concern and plan for His creation. Shalom peace is much broader than simple nonviolence. It includes physical well-being and wholeness; right relationships with God, self, others and creation; and moral rightness. In fact, Perry Yoder, in Shalom: The Bible's Word for Salvation, Justice & Peace <http://www.amazon.com/Shalom-Bibles-Salvation-Justice-Peace/dp/0916035913/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250724558&sr=8-1>, explains that the primary usage of shalom in the Old Testament relates to physical well-being, which certainly includes good health. Health care reform is a peace issue. Because it goes to the very heart of what Biblical peace means and because it affects the lives of people made in the image of God, we, as peacemakers, must be engaged in this national effort to improve our health care system.
Our engagement in this issue can and should include becoming informed, understanding and repenting of our own behaviors and attitudes that contribute to the problem, praying for guidance and understanding to follow God's leading in taking action, and being willing to accept the consequences which may include increased costs to ourselves so that others may have health care.
There are many resources that can help you be informed and take action. Links to some web-based resources are:
Please pray about this issue and allow God's Spirit to lead you into action. There is something each of us can do whether it be writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, calling our representatives, leading a Bible study or Sunday School class, talking with neighbors, or other actions. We all must be sure to be informed so that we can promote truth and come to decisions that, in fact, help people. This is the work of a peacemaker.
Ed. note: Please also see the health care ad and the Action Alert article in this issue for more on the health care debate.