Jesus had to go through Samaria. – John 4:4
There were two routes Jesus could have taken on his journey from Judea to Galilee. The quickest way was to head straight north and travel through Samaria. However, many pious Jews would have chosen the long way around to avoid coming in contact with the Samaritans, who they had despised for centuries.
When walking your dog, do you avoid the street corner where you know the homeless woman always sits? Do you delay your departure for economics class by a few minutes to avoid the unfriendly neighbor who happens to be outside brushing snow of his car parked right next to yours? When you walk down the halls at work and see Chatty Kathy coming your way, do you duck into an empty room to avoid her?
It didn’t take me long to come up with these examples because I have been guilty of ALL of them. Every. Single. One. Perhaps it’s time I take a cue from Jesus, who went directly through Samaria and faced the very people group that most Jews went out of their way to avoid. Perhaps a smile, a wave, or a friendly greeting could make a person’s day.
Prayer: Please give me the courage to face the people I often try to avoid. Give me eyes to see them as you do.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost
(Thank you, Robert Frost, for posthumously allowing me to swipe the words from your poem, “The Road Not Taken”.)
When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. – Luke 10:33
The Good Samaritan. It is such a well-known Biblical story that the title is widely used to describe anyone who does anything charitable for a stranger. However, in Biblical days, the plot of the story was thicker than what’s typically represented today. The person in need was at great odds with the person who helped. In fact, the people groups involved … the Jews and the Samaritans … absolutely despised each other. The reason? Racial differences.
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day earlier this week, I’ll let him describe the scene as he did in his speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”, which he gave the day before he was assassinated:
One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. … Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother.
Dr. King worked tirelessly during his lifetime to combat racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. As a minister and student of the Bible, he was well-versed in the best tactic: love.
Prayer: Give me the capacity to love another … even my “enemies” … as I love myself.
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. – Martin Luther King, Jr.