Imagine, for a moment, Jesus in our time conversing with his disciples and his discussion with them interrupted by a person who asked; “What must I do to attain eternal life?” His reply: “Well, what do you think?” The person answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In response Jesus says: “You’re correct. Do this and you will live.” Then the man asks: “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus says: “There was a man who was being arrested by the police. He was on the ground, handcuffed, with three officers leaning on his body, and one more who had his knee on the man’s neck. The man pleaded for relief because he could not breathe. For almost nine minutes the officer leaned on his neck. While this was happening, a pastor happened to come by, but he crossed over to the other side of the street to avoid involvement. Shortly after that, a Christian came by, but he too averted his eyes and passed by on the other side of the street. A short while later, a Marxist came by, saw what was happening, and demanded that this stop, that the life of the man being brutally restrained mattered. Which of these was a neighbor to the man dying on the street?” The person answered, “The one who pleaded mercy for the man.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
Later on, Christ followers would record this account as the parable of the good Marxist. This is the contemporary equivalent of what Jesus said in his day. The hero of the story in Jesus’ day was a Samaritan, a race of people that good, up-standing Jews in his day despised because they considered them mongrels, half-breeds. Historically the Samaritans were a mixed race people, the result of the remnant of Israelites who had intermarried with those settled in the Northern kingdom territory after the Assyrian conquest. The Jews, as noted in the story of Jesus with the woman at the well in Samaria, had no dealings with the Samaritans. Yet, in Jesus’ parable, the Samaritan is the hero—not because he was a Samaritan, but because he had shown mercy for the Jew who had been attacked by robbers and left for dead on the roadside leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. His choice of depicting the hero as a Samaritan was intentional to show that the concerns for life that align with God’s heart were clear enough and capable of being followed by anyone, even by those whose worldview and frame of reference differed from the Jews, the people of God. Jesus intended to show that the Samaritan’s compassion for humanity overcame whatever personal enmity he might have held.
The point of the parable in our contemporary retelling is this: since even the Marxist is capable of drawing attention to tragedies like this and advocating for change, how much more should Christ followers be capable of, and engaged in this? This is why our church is doing the 21 day racial justice challenge—we want to listen, to be informed about the basis for social unrest in our country, and while we’re engaged in this challenge, we’re in prayer seeking God’s direction for how we respond to this in ways that align with God’s heart. Does God have an opinion (to put it mildly) about how people in our country—indeed our world—are treated? I believe most Christ followers would agree that God does care how folks are treated. Through whom does God work to pursue the mission of redeeming the world? Ephesians 3:10 tells us that God uses the church to display the wisdom of God to the world; not the principalities or powers of this world, not the rulers of the world—the church. When the church is silent on matters central to God’s heart, the world suffers. Where the church speaks, there is hope. Because people matter to God, they must matter to us—we are people of hope, therefore we must add our hope filled voice to the national conversation.
We’ll be in Isaiah 58 during our time together on Sunday if you want to get a head start on the message. Also, we have a congregational meeting via Zoom on July 19. This is one of our annual meetings during which we elect members to serve on session and as deacons. On July 19, the meeting will be held at 11:15AM in place of Afterword. Jazz Vespers is coming our way this Sunday evening at 5PM—thanks to Jean Chaumont and the team for this hour of refreshment!