Read Luke 10: 25-37. It’s a familiar parable: The Good Samaritan. Those of us who grew up in the church were taught this many times and always knew that this was the model. Be the Good Samaritan. Help others in need. We can do that, we can be the Good Samaritan in this story, it’s not that hard to picture.
I heard Gary Haugen (Founder and President and International Justice Mission) share on this parable one time. And he asked this question: what if the Good Samaritan had come upon this man WHILE he as being beaten? What then?
This is what many in our world are facing. And this is what the church needs to be asking. When Jesus says, “love your neighbor as yourself” what would we want someone to do for us if we were in this situation? A situation of violent oppression.
What would we want someone to do for us if we were terrified of the police? If we felt our lives were in danger every time we got pulled over or walked around with a hoodie sweatshirt on or put our hands in our pockets. What would we want someone to do for us if the confederate flag was a symbol of oppression and slavery?
We can deal with the neighbor that is hungry. We can probably even deal with the neighbor that is alcoholic or homeless. But the neighbor that is caught up in VIOLENT oppression…what do we do about ISIS or Boko Haram? Or even closer to home, what do we do about Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the unending list of men and women who have lost their lives. What do we do about the oppressive symbols of systemic racism that still exist in our country – many of which we are still oblivious to. What do we do about Dylann Roof? What do we do when someone like him want to come for healing and be part of our congregation? NO WAY! We have no clue! We are out of our league!
The Church does not know how to deal with violent oppression. I suggest that we have two ways of reacting:
We either think we have to fight back with proportional violence. HATE the Dylann Roof’s of the world and call for their death. HATE the cops. HATE, HATE HATE!
Or we run away. We convince ourselves racism does not exist. I am not to blame. There is no such thing as white supremacy. The burning of black churches is just a coincidence. I am not to blame. I am uncertain how to even start a conversation about racism and reconciliation, so I’ll just ignore it unless it comes up.
We don’t know how to tow a middle ground. We are unclear about how to call for justice but bring it about with grace. How to believe the systems of oppression truly exists and that they must go BUT that the people who impose them are not inherently evil and don’t deserve to die. That sin is something to be HEALED not something to be punished and condemned.
One of the hardest things for people to believe about the Christian faith is that God is good because there is so much personal pain and global suffering. There is so much brokenness in the world, and instead of hearing the stories of the other, we just assume an exaggeration or untruthfulness in their story.
What’s God’s plan for making it believable that He is good when there is so much suffering in the world? THE CHURCH! We are! And God doesn’t have another plan. This can feel overwhelming, but we’re not alone! The disciples felt overwhelmed too – in the feeding of the 5,000 (as just one example!). But Jesus simply implied, “What DO you have?” and used that to feed everyone…to overflowing! He didn’t ask the disciples to do the miracle themselves, he just asked them to give what they had so he could do the miraculous.
The church is so often guilty of the sin of omission. We confess the sins of injustice and acknowledge they exist but do nothing about them. “Confessing without action can lead to a paralyzing institutionalization of the gospel.” – Gerhardt
And that’s what Christ is calling the church to. Be available – be awake to the suffering around us. BELIEVE the suffering around you and choose to engage it. We have to realize that we have a common humanity. And until we are as indignant about the suffering around us and feel as injured by their oppression, our churches will be unmoved.