Surgical Spirit: The drunk in the road

“But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.” (Luke 10:33)

Years ago, we were driving home after a meal out when suddenly there was a man in the headlights, staggering into the road in the dark. Now, I love the parable of the Good Samaritan and here was my chance! We stopped and picked him up. He was not entirely coherent and he smelt of alcohol; we guessed he was trying to walk home from the pub. He was bleeding – had he been in an accident? And how did it feel to be a real-life Good Samaritan?

I will be honest; I was really annoyed about this bloke in the back of the car. For a start, how were we going to get the blood out of the seats? Why had he got so blotto he was now going to waste the nurses’ valuable time at A&E when they had more important (and more deserving) cases to deal with? And, in the days before mobile phones, how were we going to let the babysitter know we would be late?

Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Luke 10:27b) and spoke of the Samaritan taking pity on an injured man. We must be merciful: ‘Go and do likewise.’ (Luke 10: 37b) Yes, I took action. Yes, I did help that man staggering in the road. But I did not have the mind of Christ. In my heart I did not feel compassion. I was too worried about the blood on the seats.

Compassion fatigue is not only the province of health care workers. When you hear of a sudden or unexpected death – say from a heart attack – in a chain-smoking alcoholic, do you think, ‘Well, he got what he asked for’? Do you have a judgmental attitude towards those whose reckless behaviour gets them into trouble? (Being judgmental is ‘looking down’ on such people – I am not saying we cannot have an informed opinion or recognise cause and effect).

Thank God that he “does not treat us as our sins deserve” (Psalm 103:10). Far from it, since “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).


Heavenly Father, thank you for your compassion. Thank you for your love for me, the least lovely and least deserving of all your children. Thank you that Jesus is “the kindness and love of God our Saviour” (Titus 3:4). Help me to demonstrate your love and kindness from my heart.


Ruth Eardley is a GP and member of Affinity partner Little Hill Church, Leicester. She writes a regular piece for her church entitled 'Surgical Spirit'. We have been given permission to reproduce some of them. This is one of her latest contributions.

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