Won’t You Be a Neighbor?

I am a racist. It is something I hate in myself. The only reason I’m not condemned to hell for it is because Jesus took that judgment on himself in my place. Every day, when by God’s grace, I grow closer to God, I become more like Jesus and less like a racist. Some call this growth or evolution. Theologians call it sanctification.

It is important that I state this because I am not intending to be messing with the sawdust in your eye while ignoring the timber in my own. (“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”~Matthew 7:3)

Of course we didn’t invent racism or prejudice. In fact, when Jesus wanted to make a point about the most fundamental principles of being a Christian, he did so using the racism of his earthly days.

In Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest. As it turned out, there were two sides to the greatest commandment. The first was to love God and the second was to love your neighbor as yourself

So in Luke 10, when an “expert in the (Old Testament) law” said that the great commandment was the key to eternal life, Jesus said he was right! But then “he wanted to justify himself” so the expert in the law asked who his neighbor was. Jesus’ answer has been making the church squirm uncomfortably ever since.

The expert in the law was a Jew, in fact, a big shot among the Jews. Jews despised the Samaritans to their north dating to events in distant history. So, when Jesus uses a Samaritan as the hero of the story, the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan, do not doubt that he was launching a direct attack on the racism of his time.

A man was robbed, beaten, and left for dead by the side of the road. There were people who could hear his cries for help as he was taking his last breaths. (Am I being too subtle here?)

When a Jewish priest came along he crossed to the other side. When a Levite came along, he also crossed to the other side. The Samaritan, who addressed his physical need and financial desperation, was the example of a neighbor that Jesus used.

I had a preacher friend forward to me words purported to be those of the pro-golfer, Bubba Watson (according to a fact check, he didn’t say this). This is the beginning of what he said, “I’m so confused right now. I see signs all over saying black lives matter. I’m just trying to figure out which black lives matter. It can’t be the unborn black babies. They are destroyed without a second thought . . . “ and so on.

What would motivate someone to look for ways to muffle, if not silence, the sound of our black neighbors calling for help? I’m not talking about Bubba, I’m talking about those who share these words falsely attributed to Bubba.

It is obvious that all lives matter. So, when someone responds to “black lives matter” with the “what abouts”. What are we trying to do?

After my motorcycle accident, I remember being wheeled on a gurney into the hospital and hearing doctors debating whether they would need to amputate my leg and what the status of my injuries were. No one in the hospital jumped up and yelled, “But what about my leg!?”. Why? Because the medical professionals focused on the leg that needed triage.

The world is full of injustice, tragedy, and suffering. None of us are exempted and no one is arguing otherwise. But remember the powerful, respected expert in the law? “He wanted to justify himself.” He did not want to have to help the broken, poor, injured person from whom history said he should distance himself. He was looking for an excuse to cross over to the other side of the road.

“Black Lives Matter” is the cry of people in need. They suffer disproportionately from the pandemic. Their opportunities for education and employment have been relatively limited for many generations. They are more likely to be unemployed, stopped by police, incarcerated, and killed by police. Our nation’s history, and the western church’s history, is sullied by our attempts to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to our neighbor.

So, when someone responds to “black lives matter” with the “what abouts”. What are we trying to do? Are we looking for a reason to hate? For a reason to cross over to the comfortable and quiet side of the road? Or are we open to following Jesus?

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” ~ Luke 10:36-37

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