But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. (Luke 10:33)
It has been a delight for me to watch as many of you have taken the challenge to memorize one of the parables of Jesus and recite it in front of the congregation on Sundays. Charleen and I chose to work on the parable of the Good Samaritan together and anticipate having recited it by the time you read this newsletter.
I remember as a child a coworker of my dad’s from General Electric spending many an evening at my home and sitting at our dinner table. He was a chemical engineer who was originally from India. His wife apparently could not adjust to the cultural differences and deserted him to return to India. He found in my family a home away from home. My parents even invited him to join us on our annual two-week vacation to North Carolina, this time for the Christmas holidays. (It was a sight to behold to see the eight of us mashed into a small station wagon for almost 2000 miles.) He even volunteered to cook a traditional Indian meal for us, replete with a very spicy pickled mango sauce.
Dr. U and my dad had many conversations about spiritual things, and I remember when my dad encouraged him to drive to Schenectady to talk with Dr. Mekeel, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, because my dad felt that Dr. Mekeel would be better able to respond to certain questions. Dr. U came home having committed his life to Christ. He later moved out of state, became a member of a good church and remarried. But he and my parents remained in contact with each other through the years, even corresponding with my mom after my dad died.
Last month in my newsletter article, I addressed the topic of reaching beyond our cultural barriers for the sake of bearing witness to the gospel. As part of that article I asked the question, “What do we do with the alien at our gates? Or for that matter those asking for asylum from Honduras or Syria?”
The whole question of border walls and refugees and immigration has taken front page as of late. I am more than ready to confess that I don’t have all the answers. I do think it is important that we have clear and workable laws in place to facilitate those who would come from other countries and would like to make the US home. Why it is so difficult for our politicians to come to consensus is beyond me. It doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated. But the argument is true, that America is a land of immigrants unless we were born Cherokee or Navaho. We all trace our ancestry back to another country and culture.
There is a difference between the State and the Church, the “City of Man” and the “City of God”, as Augustine put it, and we as Christians hold citizenship in both. Yet when it comes to our most basic core values (and ethics) citizenship in God’s Kingdom comes first. What does this mean for us as followers of Jesus?
For one thing, we need to pray, seriously, for those in positions of leadership, that their decisions would be motivated, not by political positioning, but by what is really right. We have some who are in positions of leadership, who, by their profession, are Christians and there are many who are not. We need to pray for them all.
But secondly, as I sought to point out last month, as those who follow Christ, we need to keep in mind that cultural self-protection is not our calling. Making disciples of all nations is. We may commit ourselves to sending missionaries to far corners of the earth to preach the gospel. We love to hear their stories and see their picture when they are home, but we can still confuse what is culturally familiar to us with the gospel. The two are not necessarily the same. Sometimes they are actually in conflict with each other.
I’m happy I’ll see Dr. U in heaven. I’m even happier that my mom and dad modeled the good Samaritan for me.
Pastor Tom Bridgman