Psalms 43; 149, Deuteronomy 11:18-28, Hebrews 5:1-10, John 4:1-26
During our two year journey through the Daily Lectionary, we return to the story of the Samaritan woman at the well eight times. When she first meets Jesus she has no idea who he is, and she would have been scandalous by the standards of first-century Jews. First, she was a Samaritan, a people who shared common ancestry but a bitter feud with the Jewish people. Second she’d had five husbands, and her current companion was not her husband. Yet when she learned Jesus was the Messiah, she became an evangelist to her people, who then invited Christ to teach them.
Eight times a year we are reminded that Jesus fostered reconciliation with his people’s enemies and outcasts.
That’s probably not enough.
One sad truth about human nature is that we segregate ourselves into tribes and consequently define the world as us and them. Team Us likes to blame all our problems on Team Them; after all, why wouldn’t any and all decent people be part of Team Us? A common enemy gives Us purpose, and sometimes even helps Us survive. Team Them takes our jobs, our land, and our self-respect … or at least we know they’re trying to! So that justifies why Team Us – naturally the more righteous side – needs to do those things first.
Are there people who really intend us harm? Certainly. But statistically speaking we’re in more danger physically and economically from those like us or close to us than from outsiders. We don’t like to admit that our wisecracking, churchgoing uncle is more likely to assault us than is a stranger in a bathroom, or a Sikh we’ve mistaken for a Muslim. Samaritans didn’t crucify Jesus – his neighbors did.
Historically there has always been a new group of ethnic, political, religious, or sexual Samaritans we can dehumanize to serve as scapegoats for our fears and as distractions from our own failings. We always believe we have a good reason to consider them the villains of Team Them.
The history (and present) of all nations and cultures (including our beloved US of A) is riddled with examples of not just disproportionate responses to real and imagined threats, but preemptive attacks and domination of people who had nothing against Us until we moved into Their territory (be it physical, political, or spiritual) … and then declared them dangerous enemies for defending themselves. Creating a “Them” is an awfully convenient way of justifying our own sins.
If Christ is our example, shouldn’t we be doing good to them even when we are afraid?
No matter who our newest Samaritans are, Jesus died for them too.
Comfort: Jesus doesn’t require you to have enemies…
Challenge: …but he does tell you to love the ones you do have.
Prayer: God of peace, teach me to take the plank from my own eye before condemning the specks of others. Amen.
Discussion: Has your view of any social group evolved from unfavorable to neutral or even favorable?
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