Among the most ridiculous of all sins is racism. Hating, maligning or insulting somebody solely on the basis of how they were born, something they had absolutely no choice about, is absurd. Yet racism is one of the deadliest of all sins, often causing tremendous emotional and physical harm, and even death. The story of the Good Samaritan is really about a victory over racism (Luke 10:25-37). It is a Samaritan man, disdained by the Jews solely because of his birthplace, who stops and helps the victim of a robbery. The victim was ignored by two fellow Jews, a priest and a Levite, who left him to die along the road. It was the Samaritan who broke through the racism among Samaritans and Jews by caring for the Jewish man and loving him as his neighbor.
As difficult as it may be to admit, there is probably a bit of racism in all of us. It is likely that there is some negative attitude or prejudice we have toward others that is based solely on their ethnicity, culture or family of origin. The story of the Good Samaritan can teach us some steps to help us deal with and overcome any racism that we may have within us.
The first step is to acknowledge our prejudices instead of ignoring that they exist. Even though we might feel ashamed or embarrassed that we have them, naming our prejudices is the first step toward getting rid of them. The second step is to act. The Samaritan in the story actually did something to help the robbery victim instead of ignoring him like the others did. Action means taking care with the language we use in talking about other people. It is especially important to avoid humor that degrades, vilifies or ridicules others because of their race. The third step is to realize that overcoming racism takes constant vigilance. Today we may be free of a certain prejudice but it could resurface when something happens which reminds us of why we developed the prejudice in the first place. Letting go of our negative attitudes toward others is almost certainly something that we will be challenged to do many more times in our lives.
Who is our neighbor? We can thank the Good Samaritan for giving us the answer.
Together in faith,
Fr. Christopher Smith, Rector