Being a good neighbor is becoming more difficult, but has never been more important.
These last few weeks have been unbelievable. We have all been watching the horrific images coming out of France relating to the events of a week ago. Now I am seeing images of a Mali hotel in which at least 21 people were killed by attackers.
It seems like every time I turn on the television there is “breaking news” and it usually not very good. All of these images are elevating the already high anxiety of our world, and closer to home, those of us in the United States.
Living here in the Show Me State, I am sensitive to what has been happening at Mizzou. A university president and chancellor resigned over the demands of an on campus student organization and one student went on a hunger strike. I’ve also read about students here in Springfield at Missouri State who have their own list of “demands.” They are claiming racial discrimination and insist upon a more inclusive environment.
If that wasn’t intriguing enough, I am hearing presidential candidates weigh in on the Syrian refugee crisis. Many of them oppose offering any assistance, with the exception of one Republican candidate who says we should help “Christian refugees.” When asked how can you distinguish the Christian refugees, he replied, “I think you can prove it.”
Perhaps most troubling to me personally has been the ongoing rhetoric of former Southern Baptist minister and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. In responding to a question of receiving Syrian refugees, he responded, “It’s time for us to wake up and smell the Falafel.”
There has never been a more important time to respond to the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan has radical implications for us who claim to follow him and his teachings. Those who are familiar with this story realize that Jesus allowed a Samaritan to become the hero of the story. It involved helping a stranger who had been beaten and left on the roadside to die. Two religious leaders came by that scene and passed “on the other side of the road” to avoid seeing the need. I can only imagine the shock and angst among those Jewish listeners when revealed the Samaritan as one who acted with compassion.
“Who is my neighbor?” Jesus didn’t provide an answer, but brilliantly led the initial questioner, a religious leader, to offer an answer to his own question: “The one who had mercy on him.” He couldn’t bring himself to say the word “Samaritan.” And Jesus responded, “Go thou and do likewise” (Luke 10).
I get the fact that we need to enforce our laws and ensure our security as a nation. I am a father with three children and am concerned about the world they are going to live in. I am also concerned about how the church as a whole is going to respond to these challenges and dangers. In short, I believe that a culture of fear is infiltrating the body of Christ and making it difficult to distinguish the behaviors of the world and the church. It’s ironic that such hateful words and actions are coming from those who would also argue vehemently that this nation is “Christian.”
The church needs to find its voice during these turbulent times. We ought not jettison biblical teachings when faced with the politics of the moment. The words of Jesus continue to challenge us:
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me. (Matthew 25:37-41)
I sympathize with the presidential candidate who thought the Syrian refugees should be able to “prove” they are Christians. My concern is whether we can do that as well.