This is a guest post by my friend and co-worker Andrea Emerson. She shared it as a devotional reflectional to open a training I was leading a couple weeks ago for InterVarsity staff. InterVarsity is a Christian ministry to college students. We raise financial support to do our work, which we call ministry partnership development. These terms will be helpful in understanding her interpretation of the parable. I deeply appreciated her contemporary take on the story of the Good Samaritan. Have a read and let us know your thoughts.
The Parable of the Merciful Muslims
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law?”
He answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.”
And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
America has always been a deadly and dangerous place for our Black brothers and sisters. Publicized police killings of unarmed Black men and women in the past year have made this more obvious to those of us who have not lived their reality.
Last month after the slaughter of nine precious Black saints in Charleston the danger took a new, but familiar shape: Black churches began to burn.
In the ten days after the massacre, first one, then two…no three…four, five, six….seven, eight.
Eight Black churches burned – a deeply painful reminder that to be a Black American is to find no mercy. Both the Charleston massacre and the subsequent church burnings cry out to us that not even the buildings of the Black church, a pillar and sanctuary of the community since slavery, are safe.
Our country is a deadly and dangerous place for our Black brothers and sisters.
In the wake of these church burnings most prominent White and Asian-American pastors behaved as if they did not know it had happened. Therefore, it did not occur to them to include the stories of these churches, let alone an entire year of #blacklivesmatter stories, in their sermons or invite their congregations to give toward rebuilding efforts. They just kept going with their church’s business as usual, unaware of this gaping wound in the capital “C” church in America.
Then there were the InterVarsity staff workers diligently spending their summers working on ministry partnership development. They were aware of what was happening, so they posted Facebook statuses filled with the language of mourning and outrage. “Black churches are burning and Christians who aren’t Black don’t know or care! We can change that!” they thought as they hit ‘share’. But they never asked their ministry partners and supporting churches to make generous gifts toward the rebuilding efforts of the burned Black churches, let alone make a gift of their own. They were too busy finding partners for themselves.
But then another story began to circulate: Muslim charities were collecting money to rebuild burned Black churches. They decided to use Ramadan, a holy month in Islam marked by self sacrifice and giving to launch their special campaign. Their “Respond with Love” campaign website states:
“ALL houses of worship are sanctuaries, a place where all should feel safe, a place we can seek refuge when the world is too much to bear. We want for others what we want for ourselves: the right to worship without intimidation, the right to safety, and the right to property.” *
But maybe not every church burned because of a hate crime, some pointed out. Do they deserve all of this money. All of this attention?
The Muslims were undeterred. The director for one of the charities spearheading the campaign said, “It doesn’t matter to us how or why these churches burned down, we want to help our Black sisters and brothers get back into their houses of worship as soon as they can. Ramadan is a time of giving and what better cause to give to than one that rebuilds houses of worship where God’s name is constantly called, remembered and loved.” *
Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the Black Christians and Black Churches?
Jesus says to us, “Go and do likewise.”
I (Andrea) wanted to let myself off the hook. I was one of those irate InterVarsity staff who posted a link to an initial article about the Muslim charities. I wrote that I was almost certain the church where I’m a member would not take up an offering for this cause and how I felt a healthy sense of shame about it.
I was content to leave it at that.
But then a friend was curious if I planned to ask my church to take an offering. When I read his words I felt conviction: I am a supported missionary of my congregation, with the ear of the outreach pastor, and rather than use my position of power and privilege to bring awareness of injustice in the Church, I was content to let my position serve myself. I hadn’t thought to speak up. That is the real shame!
My friend invited me to choose the Jesus way and love with my actions. My outreach pastor is in Zambia right now, there will be an email in his inbox with an invitation to grab a cup of coffee and talk about what our church can do.