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The Good Samaritan Speaks to Race

By March 23, 2015April 5th, 2016No Comments

Good SamaritanGrowing up in the church, I knew well Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan given in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37).

You have likely heard the story, too.

Of course, I always identified with the Samaritan who alone stopped to provide sacrificial and costly help for a traveler who was robbed, beaten, and left half dead on the road. I never saw myself as the two religious leaders of that time who deliberately passed on the other side of the road to avoid him.

Although the Samaritans were hated by the Jews of that day, this Samaritan stopped and rendered aid to a hurting Jewish man whose own people left him for dead. Of course I would be that character!

I wouldn’t be so callous as to ignore and walk away from someone who needed my help—would I? What if the person in need hated or distrusted me for the color of my skin or my gender? What if he disagreed with my faith? What if he had issues with me because my people had treated his ancestors unjustly and many continued to do so today? What if his family and mine had been caught up in conflict for years? What if his family had treated me and my family unjustly? Or what if he distrusted me because I was more prosperous—or less prosperous than he was? Or what if I felt one of those ways about him?

Would I be quick to help him then? Would I be gracious and generous with my time and money? Would I love my neighbor? Would I truly care about his welfare enough to help him recover?

That is the story’s original setting. Hatred, discrimination, distrust, and centuries of division separated the Jews and the Samaritans.

In the United States people who love and follow Jesus are hurting, and the easy thing to do is to walk on the other side of the road and ignore them, hoping that the issues will go away if we do nothing.

Who are they? Our African-American sisters and brothers.

I hope and pray that we aren’t talking about hatred among believers, but I know there are some in our churches who hate. Recent events have proven that there is still a huge race problem in America.

As white American believers we may hide from the issues because we don’t see ourselves as prejudiced and we know that we did not personally cause the hurt. Although we recognize lingering injustice against minorities, we don’t feel responsible as individuals and so do nothing. In fact, often we are offended that anyone would suggest that we should.

The Samaritan didn’t cause the man’s pain, and yet he took responsibility to provide life-giving help.

God doesn’t ask us to be peacemakers only when we personally cause the war. He tells us to take responsibility for others because we are to love them as he loves us.

What does his love for us look like? We were all wounded and dying until he sacrificially rescued and healed us. We were his enemies; yet he not only crossed a road, but he came down to heaven and became a man to bring peace and reconciliation to us through his own death.

As a white woman, I have blind spots in my perspective of what it means to be black. I have never had to deal with being singled out because of the color of my skin. I haven’t had to contend with deep-rooted prejudice from people who judge and label me by the way I look. Yes, as a woman I have faced bias, but nothing close to racial hatred.

Instead of suggesting that race is no longer an issue, I must face the reality of white privilege. I cannot know what it is like not to be white and am blind to the advantages which I have.

Instead of saying that I didn’t cause the race problem or try to avoid listening to the reports, I need to help bring healing within the church in grace and love. I don’t have answers as to how I can help, but I can listen.

Instead of avoiding conversations about race, I need to move toward them. I am sorry that it has taken me so long to realize that I have been walking on the other side of the road.

Will you join me as Christ-followers who have influence with others?

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