ON SPIRITUALITY AND ETHICS
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor
to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:36, 37
At no time during Jesus’ ministry does he speak about homosexuality. Nevertheless, Jesus frequently addresses controversial issues. He preaches. He teaches. He tells stories. Significantly, the gospel writers reveal much about Jesus’ responses to many controversial issues which can inform our understanding of how Jesus relates to gays.
Let’s examine one story in depth for insights on the values which animate Jesus’ ministry.
Luke 10:36 above is a question Jesus asks immediately after he describes the responses of three men who come upon a battered man. ‘The Good Samaritan’–not an Israelite–acts as a neighbor because he “had mercy on him.”
A Torah expert tells Jesus that, in addition to loving God, a person must “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus responds with this story, however, because this religious ruler refuses to include everyone in love’s circle. Thus, this elitist asks Jesus: “Who is my neighbor?”
As with all of us, this leader fell far short of love’s standard. Indeed, the teachings of Israel’s scribes and Pharisees often impose on peasants religious rituals and duties which–in Jesus words–are “too burdensome to bear.” Unable to obtain work for a decent wage, multitudes die far too young from starvation or disease.
So instead of loving their neighbors, the hard-hearted aristocracy rigs the system in their favor, oppressing the masses with religious rules and regs which denigrate them as “unclean,” impoverish them through these schemes, excludes them as outcasts and then presumes their plight is God’s curse!
This is surely the most important social reality which Jesus repeatedly addresses in various forms as substantial moral issues. Indeed, Jesus expresses contempt for the political, business and religious elite who construct a legal and economic system which enriches themselves at the expense of everyone else. Sound familiar?
In practice, the elite of Rome and Judah are not interested in loving their neighbor. Still, few of us aspire to faithfully fulfill this great commandment. We really can’t love everybody, can we? Some deserve our love. Some don’t. So we too make our love exclusive: “Who is my neighbor?”
How does Jesus respond? As the scripture states, Jesus knows this question reveals an attempted self-justification. A morality tale is needed.
This story is extraordinary. Contrary to a cursory reading, Jesus teaches much more than a kind deed to a man in need.
“Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ response is shocking. Our neighbor is found among the Samaritans: A people so despised for their religious beliefs they are cursed in the synagogues; a people held in such contempt for their race-mixing they are dismissed as ‘half-breeds’; a people so detested for their national aspirations Jews walk many miles around their territory to avoid contact.
How dare you, Jesus! Everyone knows rabbis tell stories about the Good Israelite. Is there any such thing as a Samaritan who is good? No!
When Samaritan villagers offend them, even the disciples are eager to begin a ‘holy war’ (see Luke 9:51-56). Jesus’ followers believe their faith is expressed by offering to “call fire down from heaven to destroy them.”
Jesus rebukes them.
Unlike his countrymen, Jesus did not hate Samaritans for their different nationality, race or religion. Repeatedly crossing his culture’s taboo boundaries, Jesus loves them.
Indeed, Jesus loves and welcomes people who sin. Jesus loves and welcomes people who persecute. Jesus loves and welcomes people of all nations. Jesus loves and welcomes people of all races. Jesus loves and welcomes people of other faiths.
Like all of us, Samaritans are sinners. As Jesus’ story illustrates, however, we are never justified in withholding love from anyone. We are to love sinners. We are to love enemies. And the neighbors we are to love include everyone.
As the gospels thoroughly document, Jesus embraces all outcasts. Likewise, he rebukes those who use their power to exclude others as outcasts.
Is there any question how Jesus would relate to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Jesus loves and welcomes them. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus says, for the Good Gay is a neighbor Jesus calls us to love.
©2010 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.
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