This post is being written as part of the Bridges group, seeking to close the divide that is creeping into our society. I want to thank Susan Irene Fox, Andy Oldham and Lilka Raphael for their work on this project and for inviting me to be a part.
I will l readily admit that I have prejudice in my blood. I have long been leery of other races and religions, of people who speak in a foreign accent, or who speak another language when I am present, and of people who may not be as responsible as I in finding work and getting their lives in proper order. Yes, I have a lot of problems in this area. I joined the Bridges group to try and get some direction and answers to deal with this prejudice, and it has helped tremendously. I have been pondering this post for a while, and I hope it ministers to you if you are struggling with any of the same feelings.
I have been looking back over Jesus ministry to determine how He dealt with different groups of people, and my eyes have been opened to some very interesting moments. The first instance is in choosing His disciples. Peter was a lowly fisherman, living from day to day in hard labor to provide for his family. There were days at a time he would not have a catch, and the financial burden could be tremendous. He was also not a learned man, by his own admission. He probably went to work in his father’s business at a young age, and missed a lot of schooling. Then there was Matthew, a tax collector. He was a Jew working for the Romans collecting taxes from His own people. As a result, his own people despised him. He was paid well by the Romans, and was considered a rich man. He had a lot of the pleasures of life that Peter couldn’t think to afford.
The second instance was at a well in Samaria. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews, and they were not allowed to stop and talk to them when they had to pass through the region. But Jesus stopped at a well and talked to a Samaritan woman. It was highly frowned upon in their culture for a man to speak to a woman he did not know, much less a Samaritan woman. When the disciples saw this, they questioned Jesus, but he hushed them. He shared with the woman things in her troubled life that she could not believe He would know. She became a witness to her whole village about Jesus.
The third instance is with the wild man of the Gadarenes. He was an outcast from his community, bound with chains and left to fend for himself. But Jesus released him from his bands, healed his troubled mind, and sent him as the first missionary of the Gospel to his people. Then there was a group of 10 lepers who met him while he was travelling to Galilee and Samaria. They were alone, outcast from society because of the contagious nature of leprosy. They asked Jesus to have mercy on them, and He told them to go to the priest and they would be pronounced clean. One returned to Him to thank Him, and he was made whole. There is a big difference between being cleansed and being made whole, but I won’t get into that.
The fourth instance was a Roman centurion who came to Jesus and sought healing for his servant, who lay dying in the centurion’s home. Jesus told him that He would come to his house, but the centurion said He just had to send the Word and his servant would be healed – he understood authority. Jesus was impressed with his faith and told him to go his way, his servant was healed. As the centurion headed home, word came to him that his servant was healed.
You might be asking what all this has to do with healing the divide that grips our country today. We have a mandate to be like Jesus, do we not? So, let’s take a look at exactly who these people represent.
Peter and Matthew represent the rich and the poor in our society. Jesus treated them as equals, choosing them both to become keys to building His kingdom here on earth. We hear a lot about the wage gap and the wealth gap in our country, and it is a fact that those things are present. Our obligation is to love them both equally. But He also took great care to make them equal in every aspect. Peter did not bring his poverty with him, and Matthew did not bring his wealth. They worked from a common pool among the disciples. This tells me that Jesus would want us to do more to bridge this divide.
The Samaritan woman represents woman (of course) but also represents people who have had a rough life and need someone who understands their situation and can help them find solutions. These are single parents struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economic environment. It is a growing demographic in our society. She also represents the wage gap that faces women in the workforce, as women were basically servants to their husbands in Jesus time. We need to work harder to bridge these divides.
The Gadarene man and the lepers represent the outcasts in our society. We often call them homeless. They have lost their way and are kept out of reach, as if they are contagious or dangerous. As you really look into this group, you find many who are educated and fully capable of working a job, but they have lost everything and have no address or way to be contacted adding to their instability. It can also represent those who have been unemployed for a long time, and now find it difficult to find work. We need to bridge the divide that has been formed that keeps these people from being productive.
The Roman centurion represents all the people from different religions, cultures and races who are constantly categorized and demeaned in our society. This is the biggest area that needs work. Jesus did not hesitate one second in saying He would go with the man, into his house and heal his servant, just as he would with anyone else. He treated him as equal with anyone else. And we need to do the same to bridge this divide in our country today.
I have a lot of work to do in my life, and the church needs to work hard as well. We need to put aside our pride and allow God to pour out His love into our hearts for all. We need to minister to all equally and put aside our prejudices. Only then will we see change coming to the nation. It has to start in the church. I have asked the Lord to forgive me for the prejudices in my life that have been there as long as I can remember, and to transform my mind by His love and His word. Prejudice is an offshoot of pride, and I for one do not want pride dictating my actions. I want the love of Christ to guide and direct my every step.
I know this is a long post, but if you agree I urge you to reblog it and get the word out to as many people as possible. Let’s change the tone together, and start to bridge the divide.