Bob Tamasy: The ‘Good Samaritan’ And Racism

Monday, August 12, 2013 - by Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy
Bob Tamasy

From time to time we hear about “good Samaritans,” individuals performing unusual acts of kindness – assisting a motorist with a problem on the highway, rescuing someone from a burning building, donating an anonymous gift to someone in need.

But in our increasingly secularized society, fewer people know where the good Samaritan concept began. Spoiler alert: It’s from the Bible.

Luke 10:25-37 tells about Jesus’ encounter with religious leaders that challenged Him. One leader, “an expert in the law,” cited the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” and then asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the story of the good Samaritan.

In the account, robbers had beaten a man on the highway between Jerusalem and Jericho. Two Jewish leaders of high standing – a priest and a Levite – saw the injured man, but instead of stopping to help, moved to the other side of the road and continued on their way.

It was a Samaritan – a man from Samaria – who not only stopped to assist the injured person and tend to his wounds, but also found a place where he could stay and recover. Hence, the good Samaritan.

But there’s an element to this story many people don’t grasp: At least in one respect, it’s about racism. In those days there was intense animosity between Jews and Samaritans on ethnic, cultural and religious grounds. The Samaritans, whose origins traced to the same Jewish lineage, had intermarried with Gentiles to create a mixed race, greatly despised by the Jews.

So when Jesus noted two of the Jewish elite had taken “the high road” rather than get involved in a victim’s plight, and instead it was a hated Samaritan who performed the act of compassion, it must have stung His confronters.

Had Jesus told this parable in modern terms, it might have been a black man that stopped to assist a wounded Ku Klux Klan member. Talk about turning prejudice upside-down.

Some years ago I was meeting with a young African-American man in a Bible study and he asked, “Bob, if Jesus were to appear and stand in front of me, would He see a black man?” What a great question!

Thankfully, I had recently been doing some reading related to this subject, so we looked at Galatians 3:28, which states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” As the apostle Paul pointed out, God does not distinguish according to race, ethnicity, gender or social standing.

I also related to my friend what the Old Testament says about how God does see people: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

In the gospel of John, Jesus demonstrated His opposition to the racism of His day in another way. He and the disciples were passing through Samaria, and Jesus defied cultural norms by talking to a Samaritan woman – the “woman at the well” – and asking her for a cup of water. In fact, the woman expressed her own astonishment. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9).

This encounter might not seem like a big deal today, but in Jesus’ day – both in terms of race and gender – it was unprecedented.

We find ourselves in an environment more racially charged than it’s been in years, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Prejudice means to pre-judge, usually according to external factors: skin color, race, gender, tall or short, slender or stocky. But that’s not how God sees people. He looks at the heart – the persons we are on the inside.

As followers of Christ – female or male, white, black, Asian, Hispanic or whatever – we need to ask the Lord for His discernment so that we no longer “look at the outward appearance” but as He did, “look at the heart.”

Racism can cut both ways: Prejudice isn’t just white toward black, Latino, Asian, or Middle Eastern. Anyone can pre-judge another, ascribing motivations and making assumptions based solely on the other person’s complexion or external “look.” We must seek to understand not only the hearts of the people we encounter, but our own hearts as well. Who are we pre-judging – and why?

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.


Extended Easter Sunday Service At Covenant Presbyterian

The Easter Sunday worship service at 9:30 a.m. at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 8451 East Brainerd Road, will be an extended service with no other activities that day. A Seder service Thursday at the Colonnade in Ringgold, commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, eaten together by Jewish families the first night of Passover. What the church will do Thursday night ... (click for more)

"Overcoming Your Fear Of Death" Topic Sunday At Second Presbyterian

During the month of April Dr. Perry McCallen is leading a sermon series, "Overcoming Your Fear," at Second Presbyterian Church, 700 Pine St. His topic for Sunday at 11 a.m. will be "Overcoming Your Fear of Death," with text from Luke 24:1-12. A Maundy Thursday Service of Shadows Communion will be held at 7 p.m. in the main sanctuary. (click for more)

City Applies For $27 Million Federal Grant On $52 Million Wilcox Tunnel Project

The city is applying for a $27 million federal TIGER 6 grant for a $52 million complete reworking of the narrow Wilcox Tunnel through Missionary Ridge. The project would leave the current tunnel in place for westbound traffic with a single lane and build a new two-lane tunnel for eastbound traffic. There would be an emergency egress cross passage between the two. Final ... (click for more)

NAACP Recommends Staying Away From Planned Protest By Neo-Nazi Group

The president of the Chattanooga Chapter of the NAACP, urged local residents to stay away from a planned rally here by the Nationalist Socialist Movement in August. James R. Mapp said the group seeks to provoke incidents and said counter-protests could lead to problems. Mr. Mapp said, "On April 8th, 2014, reports surfaced throughout the Chattanooga-Hamilton County region that ... (click for more)

State Moving Forward In Educational Improvements

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education released the following statement from President and CEO Jamie Woodson regarding the 2014 legislative session in Tennessee and HB1549/SB1835, which passed the General Assembly Thursday: After a year of extensive public and legislative conversation regarding higher academic standards and related strategies to improve student learning, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Some Really Funny Tweets

I am not on Twitter so I don’t tweet. Difficulties with my right hand don’t even allow me to text and when you blend in the fact I am now a bonafide senior citizen, it is ample reason for me to live a life where I am lacking in what otherwise might be achieved through social networking. Twitter has done real well without me. It is one of the 10 most visited websites in the world; ... (click for more)