In Christ’s time, the world seemed a smaller place. With an average day’s travel covering only 20 miles (32 km), people knew their neighbors, and met few strangers. Caring for everyone should have been easy. And yet, in the story of the Good Samaritan, Christ had to instruct them as to who their neighbors were.
But in today’s greatly shrunken world of changing borders, many struggle to relate to such different newcomers. And to overcome the fear brought on by war and terrorism. And it’s only natural to fear and try destroy to anything we see as a threat. But what would Jesus do?
Mario preached at a most unusual funeral on Sunday.
The deceased had planned all the particulars. Even writing out his testimony so it could be read. Because he wanted his life to speak, even in death. But what spoke to us most was that he didn’t fear death.
Death, whether we fear it or not, is inevitable.
We can either avoid thinking about it. Or we can plan for our life to speak, even during battle with that last earthly foe.
And then during the birthday celebration meal for one of Mario’s students, we got to share this very message. Seated next to two ex-students, they confided how afraid they felt after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, so close to Italy.
“What if they come here?” the younger whispered, almost as though afraid to voice the thought. But they are already here. These terrorists have infiltrated western nations for decades.
And they meet their goal. They create fear and terror. Causing their targets to tuck tail, run, and hide. We fully realize there are no simple answers, and we feel for national leaders trying to navigate such turbulent waters. Trying to stop an evil so hard to localize. But the thought that kept coming to me was, “What would Jesus do?”
Christ did not fear death.
Not that he necessarily welcomed it, especially the horrific death he knew he would face. He didn’t fear it, but met it head on. And like the man we just buried, he left detailed instructions for his loved ones. More than any other, Christ’s life spoke, even in death, and the threat of death.
Nor did he fear the enemies who hunted him.
Until the end he preached and reached out, always hoping they would turn from the error of their ways. And even in the last hours before his arrest, he washed Judas’ feet and broke bread with him. Dipping his hand into the sauce dish along with Judas’.
Christ was born into a time of fear, hatred, and contempt. Jews and Samaritans, who hated and feared each other, went out of their way to avoid each other. And both hated the Romans, who had the power to execute them.
But still he taught about the Good Samaritan.
Yes, it’s natural to fear. To avoid and block out whatever seems a threat. And we need to stop this evil that is terrorizing the world.
But if we enter into the same hatred, we will never break the cycle of evil.
So what could we say to those teenaged girls? What can we say to a fearful, confused world around us? And most of all, what we can say to ourselves and our fellow disciples?
We encouraged those girls to not fear, for that would be letting the terrorists win.
And to realize that the most important thing was making sure they are safely hidden in God’s love. Suffering, hate, and persecution are unavoidable in this hate-filled world. And death, most of all, is inevitable. Whether an enemy kills us, or we die peacefully in our bed, we will die.
“But Christ defeated even death, that last earthly foe,” we told them.
So we choose love over fear. We know that by God’s power, Christ has defeated every foe, even death and hatred. So we will not close our doors, but continue to reach out to the refugees in our area, Muslim and non. They are all people Christ loves and died for. His teaching has not changed. And we hear him saying, “Fear not, Good Samaritan. Go and do likewise.” Even if the other seems like your enemy.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).
We do not fear the terror that threatens to engulf. We do not fear death.
What we do fear is that we would allow these things to cloud Christ’s teaching.
What we fear is a fear-driven world, and especially a fear-driven church, that would close its heart and doors to the poor, the hurting, the needy, and the innocent. We fear a world that turns innocent women and children fleeing war and violence away.
And all in attempt to keep out an enemy who is already among us.
It seems as futile as trying to keep death at bay, when it’s already taken ahold of us.
May God help us all.
Author’s note: We fully understand how complex it is to balance national/world security with compassion. And we pray world leaders will have God’s wisdom. But these people are right here, in our neighborhood. So to us, THE REFUGEES ARE, AND WILL REMAIN, NEEDY PEOPLE THE LORD HAS PLACED IN OUR PATH. We could no more refuse them help than we could have refused our children food.]