Dr. Seuss had an amazing story dealing with different people learning how to be neighbors. The story was called: The Sneeches. In the land of the Sneech, there were two different types of Sneech- those with stars upon thars (there bellies) and those with none. The Sneeches with the “stars upon thars” were always living with an air of superiority in the air, as if somehow, the stars made them more worthy of life, than those without. The Sneeches without began to believe the lie as well. Soon, an inventor came into their little town with a machine that could put stars upon thars and every Sneech without paid the inventor money to be like those with stars. They began to strut about with their new found assurance of their lives being worth it and it bothered the previous Starred Sneeches. The inventor made a new machine that took stars off, so there could be a uniqueness again. The previously starred Sneeches, began to pay the inventor to take their stars off and once the stars were off, walked with their noses in the air as if they now were superior again. The inventor made a boat load of money that day where people kept switching from starred to unstarred until no one knew who was who. They eventually came to the conclusion after spending all of their money that a Sneech was a Sneech, no matter what, starred or unstarred. (Watch the story on YouTube here: The Sneetches)
I tell that story because we as an American nation are fighting a fight we tricked ourselves into thinking was over. We have not come to the realization that a human is a human, no matter their skin color. Racism still runs rampant in our society and worse: in many of our churches. We still find that we live by stereotyping people of a different skin tone than ourselves. We’ve not learned the lesson of being a neighbor the way Jesus taught it. We’ve been living a delusional mindset of being over this issue, when there is still a long way to go.
We are not where we think we are when it comes to racism. Many would even say that Jesus never actually taught on racism and they would be wrong. Here in this story of the Good Samaritan, we will see Jesus confronting many Biblical issues at once, including racism. The question then we must ask is: What does Jesus teach us about racism through being a neighbor?
Here, we see a story that doesn’t seem to deal with racism at all, but it’s packed with tons about that very topic. When looking at this story, we must see Jesus telling us who our neighbor is, and understand that his teaching on being a neighbor, highlights our need to let go of our snooty, “Starred Sneech” mentality. Many times, in church we don’t deal with this issue within this text, because as Warren Weirsbe said (of this very parable):
“It is much easier to maintain a religious system than it is to improve the neighborhood.” Many times we’d rather deal with the “religious” portions of Scripture and neglect the social portions of Scripture. In our neighborhoods, we need more people who see people the way this Samaritan saw people…we need to:
Begin to see every person as our neighbor
In using a Samaritan in this story, Jesus was going to deeper issues for the Jews than they were ready for, namely their racism and its inconsistency with the Scripture. Jesus talked about racism, and dealt with it in his life. Here, he uses a Samaritan to shame the Jews. The two neighboring communities were completely at odds with each other. They both had a deep-seated hatred for one another and the Jews labeled the Samaritans as “half breeds”, saw them as “dirty” and unable to worship at the temple along side of them. If they came in contact with a Samaritan, they’d consider themselves “unclean”. When traveling, they’d purposefully AVOID Samaria by travelling around it, even though it took longer. Here, a young arrogant “Bible Scholar” is trying to trick Jesus into saying the wrong thing and Jesus points out his lack of living out the entire Law this young man claimed to “love”. The Jews in the story who walked by lacked mercy, lacked sacrifice and chose themselves above their neighbor, even though they were the people of God. Even though they were the “chosen ones”, they neglected to follow the law by loving their neighbor as themselves. The young guy talking with Jesus had the right answer, but the wrong application. This young Jew thought he was living the Law well and with a short story, Jesus dismantled his thinking.
Too often, I think even the people of God completely do the same thing when it comes to loving our neighbors. The American church is still one of the most segregated places on Sunday. This is a blatant display of our lack of living out the full totality of what being a good neighbor is. We too have a Sneech problem, but fail to see it. The Jews in this story reflected the “starred” Sneeches, who thought they were more “human” than the Samaritans and thus the reality of the Scripture didn’t demand them consider the lowly Samaritans are their neighbors. You may not see this, but many white Americans treat folks of other skin colors as Sneeches without stars, even within the Church. The church can and must change this.
Think of recent racial issues going on in our current culture. How has the church’s response been as a whole? I’d venture to say it has not been united. The one group of people who should be able to stand up together for justice has been segregating itself. There has been little mercy, little tenderness and a severe lack of judgment in how we speak about these issues. When white on black brutality happens, many white folks will say: “that’s just a coincidence”, while many black folks feel it deeper, because it reminds them of the brutality they suffered not long ago. Whether or not the motives in the brutality are the same, the reminiscent pain is allowed! Rather than loving the hurting black community, many churches have condemned them for their pain. Granted this is not always the purpose, it is still the case.
We’ve not yet arrived at the place of the Good Samaritan in our culture. We are still blind to actually loving our neighbors. We can’t pick and choose our neighbor, just as we couldn’t choose the culture into which we were born. When we can begin to see every person as the neighbor whom we need to love as we love ourselves, this world will begin to see the difference God really makes in our lives. No matter ones skin tone, or sexual orientation we are called to love and serve our neighbors; not abuse, disown and leave for dead the people we find broken along the way of life.
Racism hurts the heart of God. It is a spiritual compromise. Earlier this week, in a conversation with pastor Rock, he stated off the cuff: “In every compromise, we give away a piece of God.” God is not about compromising his love for anyone, no matter what the reason. Jesus, during his earthly ministry went out of his way to break racial boundaries. Next week, we will hear from an amazing woman named Jasmin about when Jesus met with a Samaritan woman. Next through the current story, we see that to truly love our neighbors, sacrifice is required.
To Love our neighbor, sacrifice is required
The Samaritan deemed this man’s life as more important than his schedule. He was clearly going somewhere, yet chose to stop and assist the man. The other men in the story didn’t deem this man worth it. They would have needed to cleanse themselves after touching all the blood and they were more than likely on their way to somewhere as well. They decided not to love their neighbor, even though he was of their ethnicity. Yet, this Samaritan, this “dirty dog” as many a Jew would’ve labeled him thought less of himself and had compassion. It wasn’t a demeaning compassion either. I think too often, we see many having a compassion on people from other ethnicities with a demeaning compassion, a “white-knight” syndrome if you will. This Samaritan was not worried about “being a hero” he was moved with love and sacrificed his time and his money to care for this man who just lost everything and almost lost his life. We too are called to a level of sacrifice when it comes to our neighbors. In order to love and interact with our multi-ethnic neighbors, we must be willing to sacrifice preferences, styles and even some of our “cultural norms”. We must also be willing to sacrifice time and make a real effort at getting to know others so we don’t find ourselves thinking we are superior, or allow our stereotypes to lead us down a path of false judgment. When looking at Scripture, in particular Philippians 2 we can see that we should count others better than ourselves, because, in his coming into the world, Christ didn’t hold on to his superiority. If we were truly to live like Christ; racism, sexism, and classism wouldn’t exist because we’d be a people who lacked a superiority complex. Much racism, even from this story Jesus told, stems from a complex of superiority. If God so loved the world that he stepped down off the throne and let go of His superiority, we should be willing to do the same. Sadly, the American church as a whole as a Superiority complex and that poison spreads throughout the body into racism, sexism and classism.
Being a good neighbor is seeing everyone as a neighbor, no matter what their skin tone. We don’t become color blind, because the mosaic that God made is beautiful, we simply choose not to allow color to cause us to make snap judgments. The Samaritan in the story understood this better than the people of God it was being told to. We choose to walk compassionately alongside our neighbors, not with demeaning compassion, but with sincere love in our hearts for them. When we love others as we love ourselves, we begin to watch out for their best interests, not our own.
Here was my challenge to our College Church Plant: May we be a people here in Oakland who live seeing everyone as a neighbor, and choose to love unconditionally and sacrificially like the Samaritan Jesus highlighted in his parable. What do we as Aletheia look like? My desire for us and I believe God’s desire for us to see the ethnic makeup of Oakland reflected here on a weekly basis.
 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 212). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.