By Jonathan David Faulkner
In reflecting on Luke 10:29 A.P. Stanly says:
“Who is thy neighbor?” It is the sufferer, wherever, whoever, whatsoever he be. Wherever thou hearest the cry of distress, wherever thou seest anyone brought across thy path by the chances and changes of life (that is, by the Providence of God), whom it is in thy power to help—he, stranger or enemy though he be—he is thy neighbor.”
I wonder if the young Lawyer knew what he was about to unleash. Working to excuse himself from caring for the sick and the poor he asks: “Who is my Neighbor?” Jesus, of course, answers in the form of a Parable, that being the Parable of the Good Samaritan which I hope I do not have to remind you of. One could put this question forward today, what would be the answer? Having worked in the Inner-City I can tell you that the notion of caring for the poor and needy is often after-thought. Or, we give money or send a shoebox full of goodies and a Gospel Trac to a third World country, pat ourselves on the back and then go on our way. These are good things, but have we truly acknowledged our neighbors in those contexts? There was a time when I put my shoebox up on the Church Stage without a thought that my gift may be going to a village with no running water. I have given money to an organization that digs wells in Africa and not thought about the fact that there is an actual need for clean water in Africa.
Again, these things are good things to do, and I am not saying we should not do that. But as Dr. Emmitt Price said in a discussion on Reconciliation: “Someone needs to dig a well in Flint Michigan as well.” I have attended events and gone on a missions Trip where I worked with marginalized people groups and patted myself on the back. I had played the “Good Christian” card in my own head to excuse me from so many different things. On the streets of Denver I was awakened to this part of my being.
“I really struggled with the stories I am hearing and the lives that are broken” I told my supervisor Pastor John. “God was destroying my heart and I had to deal with it one on one with Him.”
You know my story, the hurt, the pain, the bullying the depression, the abuse. You have seen my posts and followed this blog. I had let that consume me and I was not healing, then I discovered the pain of another and let God take my own pain and then I was able to feel, I was able to heal. Everyday I had the pain of others right before and my job was to love them precisely where they were at as a part of the Shelter’s staff. I could not escape it, and I felt it, I felt the pain of another.
It did not stop there though, if you think that my return to small town America excused me from seeing others pain you are wrong. I started to see all those hurting; pain became to me a magnet. Now that my own pain had passed and was healing, I wanted others to share in that healing. Instead of wanting people to feel my pain, I wanted them to share in my joy.
It is because of that experience that I have been able to say in light of the pain experienced by so many both before and now after the Election. “I want to be able to mourn together, weep together, so we can heal together and then rejoice together.” I want to be for the other, for the hurting and downtrodden so that I can lift him up and invite him to sit at the head of the table. I want to take him from his place of humiliation and elevate him to that place of honor. I want to do that by taking him just as he is and letting the Spirit do whatever work is necessary.
So how do we respond? Especially now when there is so much hate and vitriol on both sides of the table. In the shadow of a historic and historically terrifying election how do we respond to those who are hurting, how do we hurt? What does the Church do now?
When my dear brother and close friend asked a group of us this question tonight, this was my response.
You be the Samaritan: Do you realize that the story of the Good Samaritan would have been considered Anathema to the Religious Leaders. So offensive it would have assuredly got their attention and may have contributed to their anger towards him greatly. Why? Because the Samaritan’s were considered Half-Breeds, a reminder of Israel’s past. Worshiping on Jacobs mountain instead of in the Temple or Synagogue. If you were a Jew and you had to go to Galilee or a northern province you generally went around Samaria. A Samaritan was considered unclean and worthy of contempt. That’s why Jesus conversation with a Samaritan woman in John 4 is so scandalous, the fact that Jesus was even in Samaria in the first place was abnormal for a Jew, especially for a Jewish Rabbi. Today we would see the equivalent in the way middle leaning Christians treat ultra-left or ultra-right wing Christians.
So for the Samaritan to even touch this Jewish man who had been beaten and robbed was probably something that would put him in danger, perhaps even danger of death. Some Commentators believe this is why he drops the man off at the inn and tells the innkeeper to care for the man and when he was well he would return and pay for the cost of caring for him. Josh Riebock points out that this man would have had to “Get down and get his robs all covered in blood and sweat and dirt to pick this man up. He would have had to get down in the mess of this man.” Just to put him on his donkey and carry him to an inn would have required the man to need a change of clothes. If this was a true story, which some Commentators believe it was because of Jesus use of Specific land markers and general specificity not present in other parables. Then the Samaritan is a hero even though he will never be recognized for what he did.
So what does the Church need to do now? Be the Samaritan. It is time to lay aside our personal comfort and peace to help the hurting. To face pain of death for the hurting and the broken, If Atrocities are committed we must stand up with those whom they are being committed against and love so radically that we are willing to give up our lives to protect theirs. We need to be people who are willing to get down in the mud and blood and sweat of the hurting person and lift them out, put them on our own donkey’s, take them to an inn and make sure they are looked after and cared for. Regardless of the cost to us, we need to be willing to and actually be active in seeking to protect those who are afraid, hurting or whatever state they are in. God himself does this in the Incarnation, stepping down into the mess of the world and though we cannot be perfect as He is without the Indwelling of the Spirit (and even then not totally so until after the resurrection) we can imitate him here on Earth.
When I set the tagline on God’s Heart a year ago I thought my hope was to turn your attention to those who were hurting. The Widow, the Orphan, the Refugee and you was not merely a tagline to get you to read my posts, but (I hoped) to get you to think about those things that we have so often ignored. I truly believe that the way we respond to the hurting and broken and in the face of whatever may come will define the Church in America in the eyes of History. It is time for us to stand up and speak for the voiceless, we cannot allow this opportunity to pass like we have so many times before.
Because there are a lot of scared people out there, Blacks, Whites, LGBTQ+, Disabled, Immigrants both legal and illegal, the widow, the orphan, the refugee and you. With that, there is hope that can come alongside them. There is the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the light that “Shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it” (John 1). We have that hope and that light, we can be peacemakers, we can be, through the Spirit of God within us, a voice that speaks life and hope and encouragement
But that might require us to give up our lives, face persecution, get messy.
I am ready! Are you?
Jonathan David Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry