But, at the risk of over-spiritualizing the angst I’ve felt these past several weeks, I write because the Holy Spirit simply will not let me off the hook another day. I do, however, offer this caveat. This blog will probably please no one. It will not go far enough for some and it won’t provide the black and white answers others want. I do have hopes, though, that it might help some of us be a little more prayerful and thoughtful about our place in this dreadful drama that seems to be defining the 21st century worldwide.
Over these weeks of horrifying slaughters in countries across the world and here at home, I have been pondering what my response should be in light of Jesus’ words that the second greatest commandment is to love my neighbor as myself. Like the rich young ruler, I want to know, who really is my neighbor? Is it any of the thousands of Syrian refugees forced from their homeland who hope to resettle in my country? Are the families and friends of people like Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook my neighbors? Are Muslims from Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia who are seeking political asylum in the West my neighbors?
When Jesus was asked this question, he refused to answer it, at least directly (see Luke 10:25-37). Why? It may be because he knew our propensity to look for loopholes that will free us from the responsibility of radical obedience. Perhaps it was because he knew a direct answer would miss the point and lead to nothing more than an angry argument like those taking place today on social media and around dinner tables and in office workrooms.
Instead, Jesus narrated that famous “Good Samaritan” story, and in essence, upended the question altogether. By focusing instead on those individuals who had a choice to make when confronted with a broken and hurting stranger, Jesus was asking: What does it look like for you to be a neighbor? Or more broadly, in the face of those who are needy, those who don’t share your faith, those who may represent everything you abhor, those you may even fear, what kind of person will you be?
My prayer is that this is the question we will wrestle with daily. What kind of people will we be in light of the situation we find ourselves in? Whatever your political persuasion, whatever your personal opinion, whatever fears you face or offenses you feel, whatever terrible news unfolds, what kind of person will you be—in the things you say or the posts you share on social media, in the way you treat those around you, or in the decisions you make about who you love or who you share your time and possessions and heart with?
At the end of his story, Jesus challenged the rich young ruler with this question: "Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" The young man could only reply: "The one who showed him mercy." Then Jesus’ responded with this simple admonition: You go, and do likewise.
This is what I am pressing into today. What would it mean for me to go and do the same, to show the kind of mercy the Samaritan did in his selfless, sacrificial acts of compassion? What strangers might I notice and what steps might I take to show mercy as I shop for groceries or wait in line at the bank or work out in the gym? How might I be more intentional about offering a smile and a kind word to those whose skin is a different shade, or who dress differently or who seem to struggle with my language? How can I offer welcome and warmth to those innocent Muslim Americans who are denigrated daily by being lumped with terrorists whom they abhor as much as I do?
I want to be the one who shows mercy—in what I say and what I do, every single day, regardless of the circumstances that might make we want to act otherwise. I want to show mercy-- and I believe you do too. So let’s just figure out what that looks like…one by one, let us go and do likewise.
Here are some links that might help you get started:
This Sunday is national refugee Sunday—click here for a powerful video explaining the plight of refugees and how we can be involved from home.
I love this missionary’s wisdom on the rhetoric that is going around.
Anne Voskamp always has such beautiful, simple solutions.
And finally, some thoughtful words from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
On another note--the "Twelve Days of Christmas Devotionals" begin on December 12th right here.