In Christ’s time, the world seemed a smaller place. With an average day’s travel covering only 20 miles (32 km), people knew their neighbors and met few strangers. Caring for everyone should have been easy. And yet, in the story of the Good Samaritan, Christ had to teach them who their neighbors were.
And it’s even more complex in our world of changing borders.
Worldwide, people are fearful of all the war, violence, and terrorism. And fearing the death these may bring, the natural response is to keep others (refugees immigrants, and strangers) out. Keep the threat far away.
The only problem is that it is already among us. Terrorists have infiltrated western nations for decades.
I fully realize there are no simple answers. Asylum and immigration rules often need revising or better enforcement. I truly feel for national leaders navigating such turbulent waters between national security and humanitarian treatment.
There is little we can do to change governmental policies. But we are accountable for doing the Christlike thing in our own personal lives.
And so the thought that keeps coming to me is, “What would Jesus do?”
Christ did not fear – not even death.
Not that he necessarily welcomed it, especially the horrific death he knew he would face. Yet he didn’t fear it, but met it head on.
Nor did Christ fear the many who wanted him dead.
Up to the end he reached out, hoping they would turn from their error. He washed the feet of Judas, his betrayer, even knowing what he was about to do. And forgave those who nailed him to the cross.
He lived in a time of fear, hatred, and contempt. Jews and Samaritans, who hated and feared one other, went out of their way to avoid contact. And both hated the Romans, who had the power to execute them, even more.
But Christ rejected the prevalent prejudice, fear, and hatred, always reaching out in compassionate love.
And in this climate he told the story of the Good Samaritan.
Teaching that everyone is our neighbor in need of help. Telling us to choose love and compassion over cold pride, prejudice, or indifference. To not just walk away when we see needs.
Possibly the priest and Levite who neglected the wounded traveler felt themselves above such an unclean task. Or perhaps they were fearful the man would die, making them unclean for seven days – unable to serve in the temple, admired by the crowd.
“Be like the Good Samaritan. Choose compassionate love over pride, prejudice, and fear,” Christ was saying. And still today he calls us to be a Good Samaritan to those around us – even to complete strangers. Even to those who seem a threat.
Because if we enter into the same fear and hatred, we will never break the cycle of evil.
We have 3 choices in such times.
- We can either give tit for tat. Hate for hatred. Violence for violence.
- We can allow fear to rule our heart and keep us from doing right.
- Or we can reach out with Christ’s victorious and compassionate love.
The terror, violence, threats, and possible death we face are not the foes to fear. For they have, ultimately, been defeated by Christ.
Our greatest threat is allowing fear to cloud Christ’s teaching.
Becoming a fear-driven church, that would close its doors and heart to the poor, hurting, and needy. And turn innocent women and children fleeing war and violence away.
And all in an attempt to keep out enemies who are already among us. Enemies whom Christ has already defeated.
May we reach out with Christ’s love and compassion. And with the faith of King David (well acquainted with threatful enemies), make the same declaration that he made.