by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor to Youth and Young Adults
25One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”27The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor? – Luke 10:25-29
No matter how you vote or where your political affiliation falls, I am pretty sure you will agree: our country feels divided. Left vs right, rich vs poor, young vs old, big business vs people, and the division continues. The country feels more divided than ever before, even my kids are feeling the division. There’s this air of angst floating around us. It’s like we are all walking on eggshells waiting for the next big thing to implode or explode. There is an uncertainty of what we can say or shouldn’t say because we don’t know whether that will set them off. Students anxiety are at an all-time high, depression is sky rocketing, and they feel utterly overwhelmed. While there are a multitude of factors contributing to these feelings, this sense of division is a major contributor.
I wonder if Jesus ever dealt with such a situation or talked about a division among people?
BRIDGING THE GAP
Pushed for clarity of neighbor in Luke 10, Jesus tells a story of a Jewish man brutally beaten by robbers during the treacherous journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. Those who should have stopped for the man; a priest and a Levite; end up stepping over him while the one who seemed least likely to stop, a Samaritan (Yup, the guy who lived in a different area had different religious views, was from a different economical background, and was utterly opposed to the man), takes pity on him. The Samaritan dresses his wounds, likely using fragments of his own attire to do so. The Samaritan doesn’t stop there, though he could, he proceeds to pay out of his own wallet—for the beaten man to spend the night in an inn. This generosity would have been notable for anyone. But it is particularly prominent given the animosity between Jews and Samaritans. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted what enabled the Samaritan to cross the bridge of hatred and show such compassion, “It seems to me that this [Samaritan] man’s goodness can be described in one word: altruism (the dictionary defines altruism as a regard for, and devotion to, the interest of others). Indeed, the Samaritan was great because he made the first law of his life not self-preservation, but other preservation.
Let’s be honest, while we love this story our natural default is self-preservation. I can think of three times today that I put my own interest ahead of others (one of them being the amount of times I paused for coffee instead of doing other things). And teenagers are developmentally even more self-interested. Their whole life is curated by social media and self-interest. But that doesn’t mean that churches and families stop inviting teens to look beyond themselves and neighbors.
“According to our data, teenagers and young adults are drawn to churches that challenge them to give of themselves to others. While the path to neighboring well is not always clear in such tumultuous times, teenagers and emerging adults consistently described in interviews and focus groups how much they care about their church’s process or journey for arriving at particular beliefs, positions, and statements.” – Kara Powell
As followers of Christ, we have an opportunity and obligation, by the Good Samaritan story standard, to tell a different narrative. Our narrative is one of love, hope, and tells individuals that they have worth. Are the differences between our rivaling political parties great? Is there division in this world? And am I weeping over what’s happening in our country these days? Yes, yes, and yes.
But when we, or young people we know are tempted to go radio silent, lash out in anger, or write off those who disagree with us, may we remember more of Dr. King’s teachings about the neighborly example of the Good Samaritan: “The ultimate measure of a [person] is not where they stand in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge and moments of controversy. The true neighbor is the [person] who will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.” – Fuller Youth Institute Blog
Is it Worth it? Yes! Do young people need to see this kind of response? Yes! Is it difficult to do? Absolutely! Am I there yet? Not even close, but I want to continue to learn how to surrender my will and desire over to God so that I can help bring about unity instead of division. I’m learning what it means to be “a Good Samaritan,” will you come along with me?
Practically Speaking | How might we invest well?
- Recognize where we are living in a divisive world.
- Begin with prayer, praying for those who feel divided and asking God to help them overcome division.
- Dwell in God’s word. How do we see Christ responding to division?
- It’s more of a process than a position. Look for opportunities to create open dialogue rather than closed doors.
- It’s more about a posture than a proclamation. Are we willing to give up our desire of being right? Self-preservation, for the sake of God’s will being done?
- Practice forbearance and forgiveness!! Read Col.3:12-14. What does it take to preserve spiritual unity?