One of my all-time favorite stories is that of the Good Samaritan. A lawyer came to Jesus one day and asked him what a person needed to do to have eternal life. He said that he understood that we must love and serve God, and love our neighbor as ourselves. But then he got technical with Jesus. Trying to justify himself, he asked “who is my neighbor?” This is where the lawyer’s world is turned upside-down.
Jesus told the man the story of the Good Samaritan. He told how a man had been beaten and robbed and lay in need of help on the side of the road. The esteemed, influential, and religious men who walked by ignored him. But a Samaritan- one of the people that Jews such as this lawyer would have despised- was the one who helped him. The Samaritan altered his course, carried the man to safety and made sure he was cared for from his own pocket. The point of the parable was simple, but it was a direct challenge to this lawyer’s religious mindset: the Samaritan was the one enacting God’s character. The man the lawyer hated was the hero.
I often get into debates about faith and politics, and what often strikes me is just how alike Adventists can be to this lawyer. Jesus specifically laid out for us how we should approach our ministry. Matthew 25:37-40 says:
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
So who are our neighbors in 2017? How are we treating people? Do we have groups of people that we, like the lawyer, can’t find it in our hearts to serve? What are our attitudes toward refugees? When a young black man dies, do we grieve? Do we investigate? As LGBT youth suicide rates climb, do we seek to serve them? When we see someone walking in the grocery store with a “Make America Great Again” hat do we lose our kind attitude? When people come to this country seeking a better life and struggle with learning our language- are we the ones being patient and kind? Or are we the other characters of Jesus’ story?