Samaritans. Yeah, we know the story about the good one, right? That was the only time they were placed in a positive light in the Bible. They were seen as people who misunderstood God's law. They worshipped in places other than the Temple. They were squatters from Assyrian times. They were sort of spiritual and racial mutts. And good people, good Jews, took pains to avoid them.
Until Jesus told his students to share the goodness of God's presence and care with them. "All of Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth."
So today, as followers of Jesus' message, we have no Samaritans to avoid, right? In light of this week, I would have to say, of course we do.
Modern day Samaritans are the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) community and as good Christians, we have no problem telling them how they live wrongly. We avoid them because we find their lifestyle revolting or maybe because we are worried we will catch the gayness. But whatever it is, can we think about the story of the Good Samaritan in another way for a moment:
A lesbian is lying on the road, beaten up and beaten down. She lies there hoping to be swallowed up by the ground before anyone notices.
Two conservative men walk by on their way to church. They just came from breakfast so they avert their eyes so as not to empty their stomachs. Her lifestyle is disgusting. The wages of sin are death, right? She has brought this on herself, they mutter justifying their lack of compassion and inaction. They continue on their way, praying for God to somehow save her soul.
Shortly thereafter comes a liberal church goer. He takes pictures of her plight so that he can show the conservatives how wrong they are about individuals enjoy their sin. Obviously this women couldn't help who she is or she wouldn't have found herself caught in such trouble. He too continues on quickly because the article he wants to write for his zine does have a deadline.
The woman's despair deepens. No one cares. Not about her. Perhaps she could die now, she wonders.
At that moment, another man comes along. He sees her need. He scoops her up. He gets her the medical attention she needs so that her body can heal. As her body heals, so might her mind and spirit. She will be changed, restored, and hopefully stronger.
The question is: who is that man?
Because Christians have been too busy abdicating their duty to share Jesus' good news for the more self glorifying business of pharisiacal condemnation of sin, LGBTQ individuals have become a community that normalizes same sex attraction and reinforces the bigotry they have experienced from some individuals in the name of religion.
Christians are effectively rendered narrow minded judgemental homophobes.
But what if that individual who scooped that woman up, cradling her broken and messy body and spirit, were a Christian?
What if we loved and shared the good news of Jesus like Jesus?
There is another Samaritan I thought of in the Bible. That woman at the well. Jesus first introduces her to his truth and his care before he ever exposes her sin. And when he did, it was to state fact, not to exclude her or shame her. She became his first missionary, telling all the people around her about the man with Living Water. And he never even asked, before he let her into his life, whether she renounced her lifestyle.
People are messy. I can say that about my own life. If I look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, I look first at the log in my own eye.
I have idols of money and ambition. God is not always my first choice, unfortunately, for security and hope.
I have been an adulterer. My heart and mind have not been as pure as I wish.
I have stolen time from myself and those I love. Trinkets and coins that I have taken are trivial compared to that.
My addiction has caused pain for which I continue to make amends. I continue to avoid alcohol and other things that have led me down a path of destruction, and will do so again if I allow.
I can talk smack and assassinate your character before you hear what I am even saying. My words can be that sharp and my heart that dark.
I am unworthy of heaven, no matter how kind and generous and righteous I try to be now. When I think of heaven, I do not consider enjoying God's full embrace but simply rejoicing to be allowed shade in his shadow.
I will end this by imploring, begging my brothers and sisters in Christ, stop this campaign against those far from God. Stop usurping the Holy Spirit's role in their lives. First, know YOUR heart, how dark it is, let the Holy Spirit show you, because then you can do nothing more than throw yourself on His mercy at His feet. And then, share THAT good news!
If we share the good news-Jesus left holy perfection to be among us, His messy sinful creation, so that He could show us how deeply He loves us by first creating us and then relieving us of the death debt of sin by paying it Himself in order that we could come to Him as His children....we might be known for more than the sins we are against. It won't become us versus them. It will become God taking on Satan (and, spoiler alert, winning in the end). When we make it a battle of righteousness versus sin, we miss the fact that the battlefield has already been soaked with the blood of Grace.
Fact is, if you read the article (and know that it is quite colorful and sometimes vulgar before you do), you will see that while Phil has spoken truth, he allows for a wide berth of grace. He didn't demand the writer believe him. He stated truth and kept it moving. The writer felt comfortable, even pondering his own life a bit. That is my prayer for myself, and all my brothers and sisters:
Father, we may know the truth, but give us your ability to offer a wide berth of grace for those around us who are far from You. May we live and speak and love in such a way that those around us wonder if they are missing something. And may we always be humbled by YOUR grace to point it out. We need Your Spirit to help us. Amen.