On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' ““You have answered correctly," Jesus replied.”Do this and you will live."
(Luke 10:25-28 NIV)
Well, this is a first. I’m literally finishing up this blog in the midst of skin cancer surgery. Too much fun in the sun (and summer workouts which I ‘thought’ were healthy) has kept my fair complexion in the dermatologist’s office and under the surgeon’s scalpel more times than I’d like.
As I sit here thinking about the cancerous tumor the surgeon has just removed, I can’t help but think about another type of skin cancer that seems to be ‘metastasizing’ more rapidly than the basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma that seems to be pervading my body; the skin cancer of racism.
The recent and tragic events of Charlottesville, along with other hate crimes and ongoing hate-filled rhetoric perpetrated across the country have unveiled a deeply rooted malignant tumor. Many people are speculating that the current political climate has caused this emerging culture of racism and intolerance, but I would suggest that this cancer of hate toward those whose skin color and even ideology is different than our own, like too many cancers has been growing, largely undetected or worse, often ignored.
Racism and prejudice against those who are ‘different than us’ is nothing new. Jesus encountered it, and turned petty prejudice into one of the greatest and well known parables of the Bible – the story of the Good Samaritan. In this story, found in Luke’s Gospel, we find Jesus being quizzed and unsuccessfully lured into contradiction by a ‘so-called’ “expert in the law.”
The conversation goes something like this ala the WRRV (Win’s Radically Revised Version) of Biblical interpretation.
“Hey Jesus, what can a good guy like me do to get into Heaven,” queries this seeker of self-justification.
Jesus - “What does your Bible say?” (Always a good answer)
The puffed up professor quotes Deuteronomy (and the Beatles) “Love Love Love…God and my neighbor.”
Jesus – “Good answer. Great. Do that!”
But then Luke tells us this legalistic lecturer wanted to justify himself, and thus the one attempting to lure Jesus, gets lured by his own prejudice into becoming the Biblical poster child for intolerance and hypocrisy. Jesus makes the good (and racially mixed) Samaritan the good neighbor in the story, exampling that even though folks are different on the outside, all are equipped with the ability to love and care for one another, and even though folks might portray goodness and mercy (in this case a Priest and Levite) it’s the not the one who talks the talk, but the one who walks the walk (in this case, a despised Samaritan). The prejudicial law professor won’t even say the word Samaritan and thus when asked by Jesus, who was the true neighbor to a man in desperate need, the teacher chokes out the correct response, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus, from the same race and religion as the Biblical bigot, shows that love is not about color or creed, but about compassion. I guess you could say that the best way to prevent ‘racial skin cancer’ is by applying ‘Son-screen,’ i.e. ample applications of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self and seeing others as Jesus sees them.
(Photo above: Genice Gipson comforts her lifelong friend, Loretta Capistran, outside of Capistran's apartment complex in Refugio, TX following devastation of Hurricane Harvey)
(reference: The Parable of the Good Samaritan is found in Luke 10: 25-37.)