Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who are your untouchables/unspeakables?

This is the fourth…or fifth….post in a (long drawn out) series that has touched on all kinds of stuff. Gays, gay marriage, gay agendas, what Jesus did, what we should do based on what Jesus did. And particular people as opposed to hypothetical people who are easier to hate and the paradoxical fact that sometimes hypothetical people are easier to love. Easier, that is, than the individuals we get down and dirty with in our every day face to face lives.

After proclaiming that the law could be summed up as Love the Lord thy God with all you heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus was asked… okay then….just who exactly is my neighbor?

Ah...loaded question. And as usual, Jesus provided a loaded answer. Rather than just flat out tell them, Jesus used an analogy, a story....a parable. He told them the story of the Good Samaritan. In my web wanderings, I came across an article, "Touch The Untouchable - Speak the Unspeakable" that talked about this particular parable and had some really interesting insights into what Jesus was trying to get across.

In the article, Dr. Edwina Hunter,the Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, talks about how scandalous this story would have been to the Jews he was addressing. The Jews loathed the Samaritans.

So the gist of the story, a Levite and a Priest happened upon a man...robbed, beaten and dumped on the side of the road….and neither of them stopped to help. But the Samaritan did. So then Jesus asked another trick question, “who was a neighbor to this man?” Nobody could/would utter it out loud. They so vehemently hated Samaritans, they wouldn’t even speak the word!!

So without actually saying Samaritan, the asker answered "The one who showed him kindness." Yep….right answer.

A quote from the article:

Jesus' original audience was shocked because they and the Samaritans hated and despised each other. So? So, what does this parable have to say to us? We can hear that only if we translate it very personally. Whom do I, whom do you despise, fear, hate so much that you hate even to speak the name? Or take it further. Jesus said that the Samaritan actually touched the man who had been left for dead. Touched? He touched one who, for him and his, was untouchable. What is Jesus saying? He is saying that we will never understand who our neighbor is -- who the one is that we are to love as ourselves -- until we are able to touch the untouchable one and speak the unspeakable name. Biblical scholar, Robert Funk, says that we have to ask, "Whom would I least like to be touched by?" By whom would I least like to be helped, indebted to? Only then can we understand, hear what Jesus was saying.

There you have it….it turns out that even the folks we cannot stand…the ones we loathe….are our neighbors. The untouchables….the unspeakables. We are supposed to even love them as we love ourselves. For some of us our untouchables are gay. For some of us, our unspeakables are Democrats….or Republicans….or Catholics….or Muslims. How about fundamentalist, evangelical Christians? Yep, even those folks.

Check out the article……and think about the questions. Who is your neighbor? Turns out it is every one. Jesus did not let us off the hook about loving our neighbors….not the ones on the other side of the globe….not the ones on the other side of the street.

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