Many of the columns I write face a conundrum; some of the newspapers they appear in carry them within a few days of me sending them in, while some do so nearly two weeks later. Thus, I often worry that what I write, relevant when it comes off the pen, may be old news by the time it lands in the driveway.
That will not be the case here.
Our fair land is currently in the paroxysms of racial strife; people are protesting in the street, and officers are being hunted down and killed without consideration of whether of not they have ever so much as thought a racist thought. Two weeks will not change that dynamic; there will merely be new items to fill the shopping cart of racial tension that is well nigh overflowing.
Can it be fixed? Is there anything that can be done?
Some of the greatest racial strife ever known was in full view nearly 2000 years ago, yet along the way something happened that changed the world’s view of an entire race of people. When we say the word “Samaritan” today, what is the automatic adjective that comes to everyone’s mind?
Good. But look at how they were regarded in times past:
John 8:48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
When people wanted to insult Jesus in the vilest way they could think of, they did so by calling him a Samaritan. They put that in the same category as demon possession. John 4:9 says, “Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”
The Samaritans were a hated, despised race of people, their very name was an insult. Yet today no one ever hears the word Samaritan without thinking of the word “good.” What happened?
Luke 10:30-35 says, “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.”
When one Samaritan put hatred aside, pushed past racial barriers to help another in need, carried him to safety, and paid the bill, the reputation of an entire race of people changed forever. It did what shouting and shooting and hating and cursing and complaining and insulting could never have done.
Whites need to make themselves Samaritans to blacks. Blacks need to make themselves Samaritans to whites. We need to follow the example of the Christ who gave this account; for he himself shortly thereafter laid down his life for us all.
Pick up the tab for a black family at a restaurant. Go down to the precinct and tell a white officer you are praying for him. Visit people of other races when they are hurting, discouraged, or scared. There are a million possibilities, endless opportunities, make “Samaritan” a lifestyle, not just a temporary salve.
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. Dr. Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.