This little tag line inspires and challenges me. It’s imprinted on a bracelet that I wear occasionally and serves as a helpful reminder that if we don’t like what we see in our surroundings, we must try to make things better. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
This past Sunday while attending church with my parents the pastor preached on the familiar Parable of the Good Samaritan. The title of his excellent message was “Like a Good Neighbor….” We were reminded that the first two travelers might have had compassion as they passed by the man who was attacked and robbed and left lying on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho but for some reason they didn’t choose to act. They may have had an important meeting to attend or they may have been afraid; we can only speculate why they didn’t decide to stop and help. The third traveler had mercy on the man and acted on his compassion as he went out of his way to care for his wounds, put him on his donkey (meaning he then had to walk), and took him to an inn to care for him and to make provisions for further care. It’s not always enough to have compassion; sometimes we need to “Get off our Donkey!” as Reggie McNeal would say.
I recently overheard a conversation where a comment was made about a particular race when a person literally said that the people of that race were all the same. Based on the context, he was clearly not offering a complement. A number of responses came to my mind, none of which were positive and I knew that if I responded as strongly as I was feeling led it would create quite a bit of tension in the room. I simply said something like, “Please just stop, I do not want to hear any more about that.” He said something like “Good, because I was getting ready to give examples to prove my point.” I replied ”Please don’t, because I’m getting ready to put you in a box that I don’t think you want to be put in.” He didn’t say anything else and neither did I, as I almost bit my tongue in half.
I was reminded that it wasn’t a religious leader who stopped to help the man who needed help, it was a man often considered an outcast, stereotyped because he was a Samaritan who was despised by the Jews because Samaritans were a racially mixed society and were also considered pagans.
Friends, the Good Samaritan parable is one of countless stories where Jesus is teaching us to love our neighbor as ourselves, and this love is to be extended to ALL people, including those of different races and religions. If we claim to be followers of Jesus, we can’t ignore what Jesus is teaching us. Frankly, it is ignorant to think that all people of a particular race, religion, gender, or other wide sweeping label are all the same. And when we speak such words out loud we are letting our ignorance shine.
We must “get off our donkey” and act on our compassion when our neighbors need our help. We must also find the courage to “call it out” when we witness categorization and stereotyping. Our silence may appear that we are in agreement and sometimes folks need to be reminded that all people don’t feel the way that they do. My prayer is that we will have the courage to speak out when appropriate and also to put action behind our compassion. I want to BE the change I wish to see in the world. How about you?