Martin Luther King Day is a great time to reevaluate our attitude toward others who are different than we. Here is a brief post by my friend Jim Abernathy. Jim is the minister at Westwood Baptist Church in Springfield, VA. RMF
Another Path: Grace, Mercy, and Love
Dr. Jim Abernathy
A legal expert engaged Jesus in conversation with a question about eternal life. Jesus turned the man’s question back to him by asking the scholar what the scripture said. The man correctly quoted the law’s decree that one was to love God wholeheartedly and one’s neighbor as one’s self. Jesus told him he had answered well, but the man was not satisfied. He then asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
It’s a great question that we continue to ask today. Jesus addressed the question with a story about an unlikely hero who would have been despised by this legal expert and others who had been taught lessons of petty prejudice and pride. The story of the Good Samaritan is a story of breaking down barriers that too often limit our understanding of the value of every person. Samaritans were despised by the Jews of Jesus’ day and to say that this lawyer and others who were listening to the conversation were stunned that Jesus made the Samaritan the hero of the story might be an understatement. Jesus often turned convention on its ear, pointing his listeners to outcomes they might never have imagined. Love your enemies, forgive those who have harmed you, do not throw stones at sinners unless you are sinless…He came preaching a different path, a different way of relating to others that didn’t isolate and condemn, but welcomed, forgave, and restored.
It would be good for people of faith to remember these lessons today. Our nation and world continue to struggle with the heavy shadows of prejudice and misunderstanding that are as old as human history. The color of one’s skin, the nation of one’s birth, the preference of one’s religious or political persuasion…these are but a few of the things that divide us and fuel the anger, fear, and pettiness of prejudice.
The observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday this weekend reminds us of another path…a persistent path of grace, mercy, and love. “I have decided to stick with love,” Dr. King once said. “Hate is too great a burden to bear.” I believe that is the message of Jesus’ teaching, the message of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Who is your neighbor? Look around you…take a moment and truly look around you.