If The Shoe Fits –
If The Shoe Fits
by George Boose
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19)
A young missionary, fresh out of seminary, moved with his wife and small,
two-year old son, to a tiny village in Alaska to minister to the local native
Eskimo population. To reach this remote location required the family to take
several connecting flights in small three and four passenger planes. These
bouncy flights so terrified the little boy that he would cover his head with his
favorite blanket until the plane would gently settle down on the dirt landing
strips. This security blanket soon became the lad’s almost constant companion
during the difficult months of adjustment as the family learned to live far from
what we would call civilization. He never went to sleep without the blanket held
tightly in his grasp.
A few months after their arrival in Alaska, the young missionary was called
back to the lower 48 states for an important meeting. He hurriedly packed for
the trip while his son followed him about the apartment, obviously agitated that
his father would be flying in one of those scary little airplanes. When the
missionary finally arrived in his hotel in Indianapolis and began to unpack, he
was horrified to find that his son’s blanket was neatly folded inside the
suitcase. He immediately rushed to the telephone and called his wife,
apologizing that their child would not be able to go to sleep that night because
his blanket was missing. But his wife calmed him down and explained what had
happened. She said that as the little airplane was taking off, she said a prayer
out loud asking God for safety, knowing how frightened her son was of small
plane rides. But when she had finished, their little son in turn comforted his
mother by saying, “It’s OK, Mom, I gave Daddy my blanket
to keep him safe.”
What a wonderful story of sacrificial love. With a childlike perception, the
little boy believed his father would be scared of the plane ride, just as he
was, and he tried to provide a solution. You can say he was willing to walk in
his father’s shoes and empathize with his pain. How often are we willing to walk
in someone else’s shoes, to understand their situation, to act accordingly? I
think that’s an exercise we too often fail to undertake.
In the story of the Good Samaritan we see a perfect example of someone who
was willing to put himself in someone else’s shoes – and then respond as he
should. Let’s just read part of that very familiar parable again. “…Jesus said, ‘A man was going down
from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped
him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest
happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by
on the other side. So too, a Levite… But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where
the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him” (Luke 10:30-33).
And not only did he take pity, he put his “pity” into action – he bandaged the
man’s wounds, he put him on his own donkey and transported him to an inn, he
left silver coins for his care, and he promised to return to pay any extra
expenses. The Samaritan recognized what he himself would need if he had suffered
a similar fate – he put himself in the other man’s shoes. We often hear the
expression, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” This is an
example of the perfect fit. The Samaritan saw the other man’s plight, he tried
on the shoes, they pinched, and he made the situation better.
What a wonderful plan of action is provided in this story of the Good
Samaritan. We might not come across someone who was a robbery victim and lies
discarded by the side of the road, but almost every day we probably know someone
who is hurting in some way. Put yourself in that person’s place – Imagine what
you yourself would need – and then, do it. We might not always respond like we
should when we see someone in need, but the story of the Good Samaritan is very
easy to understand. We might see a person who has lost his way, had some sort of
accident, dropped his tray of food – it’s not too hard to imagine that the same
thing might happen to you. You can figure out pretty quickly how someone could
help you in such a circumstance. Knowing what to do isn’t really difficult –
making ourselves do it is a little tougher.
There are some circumstances when it is much more difficult to
sympathetically put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Sometimes a person takes a
bite out of us, not literally with their teeth, but with something that is said,
and that hurts even more. I think we all can understand why an animal bites. I
saw a story about a man whose beloved pet dog was hit by a truck. The dog’s back
legs were crushed. The poor dog, howling in pain, tried to pull itself to the
side of the street. The dog’s owner rushed out and tried to help his faithful
friend. The dog bit him. Why did the dog bite – because he was mean or vicious
or trained to attack? No – the dog bit because he was hurting.
People often react in much the same manner. Maybe we meet a person who has
just suffered a very painful experience – the loss of a loved one, the
disintegration of a long-standing relationship, loss of a job, or some other
unexpected tragedy. People usually won’t have any physical marks, any crushed
legs like the dog, to let you know how much they’re hurting. But like the dog,
they have a tendency to “bite” when you make contact. How easy it is to react in
kind – to bite back, and harder. But then how do you feel when you finally find
out the troubles that person was trying to bear? We need to pray, “Oh God! Help
me not to bite back at people, but to be patient, tenderhearted and sympathetic.
Help me, Father, to put myself in their shoes, to understand they are biting
because of some terrible pain they feel. Amen.” We need to recognize the bite as
a symptom of pain and try to be a “pain doctor” – treating the pain in someone
When Jesus was being led to His crucifixion – beaten and tormented along the
way – perhaps the greatest literal example of what it is like to walk in someone
else’s shoes occurred. Let us read from the Book of Mark: “Again and again they struck Him on the head with a staff and
spit on Him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to Him. And when they had
mocked Him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then
they led Him out to crucify Him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of
Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they
forced him to carry the cross” (Mark 15:10-21). Prisoners sentenced to
death were usually forced to carry the beam of the cross, which weighed about 30
to 40 pounds, to the place of execution. But Jesus had been so severely flogged
He didn’t have the strength to make it all the way under His own power and carry
the cross also. So Simon – a visitor from Cyrene – was drafted into service. We
can say He was forced to walk in Jesus’ shoes as He carried the cross to
How quickly Simon’s whole being was engulfed in the stupefying terror of the
moment. He must have thought, “What if they somehow mistake me for a prisoner?
What if they crucify me.” His legs went weak, his heart pounded, he must have
wept and cried aloud, “Why me? Why me?” Perhaps the
whip of a Roman soldier landed upon Simon’s back if he stumbled. But as far as
we know, after the forced trip to the place of crucifixion was complete, Simon
was released to return to his family. Simon probably stood by with the other
onlookers as Christ was nailed to the cross and lifted into the air. But surely
Simon alone knew just a little better than the others how Jesus was suffering.
Simon had walked in his shoes.
Are we willing to walk in someone else’s shoes? The little boy knew how
scared he was to fly, so he sacrificed his own blanket to comfort his father.
The Good Samaritan could envision himself beaten and abandoned by the roadside.
He was able to understand what the robbery victim needed. Most important, the
good Samaritan was willing to provide the help, the kind touch, the needed care,
as the rest of the world passed by on the other side of the road. Sometimes the
hurt isn’t obvious; a person “bites” for apparently no good reason. We don’t
easily recognize the shoes he’s wearing. But with patience, love and compassion
the bites can be overcome and the cause of the hurt discovered.
Simon of Cyrene didn’t wake up on that Passover Friday and decide to do a
good deed. You could say his feet were forcibly shoved into Jesus’ shoes. Simon
learned the hard way. Fortunately, God doesn’t impose the problems of everyone
we should be helping directly upon us. He allows us to imagine how it might be
to walk in their shoes. We have the luxury of observing from afar and saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Just imagining
how it feels to walk in someone’s shoes doesn’t really help. We need to
translate our concern, our understanding, our love into action. The famous
composer Oscar Hammerstein once wrote, “A bell’s not a
bell ‘till you ring it. A song’s not a song ‘till you sing it. Love in your
heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love ‘till you give it away.”
Jesus said, “…love your neighbor as yourself”
(Matthew 19:19). Walk in your neighbor’s shoes and put your love into action.
This is from "Sermons for
Seniors" by George Boose, and it is used with permission of the author.
The audio is by Ron Beckham
Father, forgive us and help us to trust in the Lord.
Fill us with Your Spirit and enable us to put love into action in this lost
world. In Jesus Name. Amen.