One of the most powerful and timeless parables that Jesus told was the parable of the good Samaritan. The term Samaritan is recognizable in many languages and when used, people understand what it means, even if they’ve never read the bible for themselves. We even have organizations named such!
But let’s recall the context. Jesus tells the parable in response to a question by a man trying to justify himself, trying to set himself apart, superior, better. The question? “Who is my neighbor?”
This itself was in response to the question ‘what is the greatest commandment?’ Love God with all your might, and your neighbor as yourself. But the man was not satisfied with that.
Jesus tells a parable that utilized one of the most stark and entrenched divisions of his day. We read this in the 21st century and often think of it as a ‘nice’ story, but in Jesus day, it was anything but nice. It was pointed, provocative, and definitely insulting to a whole lot of people who thought themselves better.
Why do I mention this? Because in this parable, we are faced ourselves, in our day, with issues that offend—some would say, insult—certain groups. Right now, racism has come once more into the foreground, and the people of God are challenged as to how to respond—as they should be. What will we do? Will our own prejudice get in the way?
World Concern, in its work around the globe, faces these issues every day. From the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar to the long-term conflicts between the Dinka and Nuer tribes of South Sudan. Let’s be honest, the world has a global problem; we here in the US simply have our own variant, rooted in history, which so many of these issues are.
The reality is, the scourge of racism, tribalism, and clannism—systematic oppression of one people over another—is endemic in our world. It is a virus far, far more damaging than COVID-19. One of the things that World Concern has learned through our work, successes and failures, is that ultimately, it’s about power and dignity. Who has the power, and who doesn’t, and how do those in power wield that power? In our Transformational Development work, exposing issues of power, and giving voice to the oppressed, is at the core of what we do. Valuing the voice of ‘the other’ is central to what we do.
This is ultimately life-changing… people begin to have hope, they understand they have value and meaning, and that all powerful component… dignity. That’s a game changer! People, whether a tribe or an individual gradually realize that they don’t have to always see themselves as the left outs, the bottom of the pile, the worthless. They have value and meaning.
Many of you who engage with what we do have a hand in these lifechanging encounters. Thank you. You are helping bridge divides that have been in existence for generations.
When Jesus told that parable, he was essentially saying to us, “The equation has to change.” You no longer have the freedom to love God, yet discriminate against your neighbor due to history, race, color, or whatever other factor you want to add. This is all our challenge; this is the world’s challenge.
Jesus ended by asking his questioner, “Who do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” To which the questioner replied, “The man who showed him mercy.” The questioner could not even bring himself to use the word ‘Samaritan’!
And Jesus answered, “Go and do the same.” May God give all of us the grace and courage to face those prejudices latent in our own hearts. As you pray for, and give to, the work that World Concern does around the world, pray that our staff and teams continue in humility, wisdom, and the courage to reflect the Good News of God’s work of reconciliation for ALL of us.