January 18, 2021


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Social justice and racism


From the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him [Jesus] and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law?  How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."  He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live." 


But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  Likewise, a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.  But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.  He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.  The he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.  The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, "Take care of him.  If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back."  Which of these three, in your opinion, was a neighbor to the robbers' victim?"  He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy."  Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."


Reflection Message from Pastor Fred

As we heard in the Gospel reading, the question is posed, "Who is my neighbor?"  Jesus is ready, answering with a parable. Jesus often used parables to shed light, bring new insights, and provoke a change in the hearts of listeners.  We hear that someone is robbed, beaten and injured.  Two walked by, ignoring the injured man.  Both were people where were charged with caring for people, but they passed by.  The third was a hated foreigner, a Samaritan, and he heard the cries and stopped, caring for his wounds and securing him safe lodging.  He was the good neighbor.


Keeping this in mind, consider the scenario we are witnessing today as racism persists.  We have witnessed not only the terrible act of one police officer, but the failure to stop this act by those other policemen who stood by.  We have seen this over and over again, with a black man shot and killed because he was running, a white woman threatening a black man in Central Park because he asked her to leash her dog, saying he had threatened her.  "I can't breathe" has now become a call for people to do something about it.  Many have come out to protest peacefully, unfortunately others have smeared this by looting and rioting.  What we need to see now is people who will stand non-violently and say enough is enough.  We need to make it clear that systemic racism has to be addressed.


We can no longer walk by the victims of racism without looking deeply at their wounds or the pain inflicted on them.  We must stand with our brothers and sisters, hearing their cry and address the continuing disparities in education, housing, employment, and economic well-being.  We must deal with our country's shameful history of slavery and of systemic racism.


Jesus' parable calls us to our obligations as Christians, to be a good neighbor: the one who stops and helps. 


The signs of this time are asking us to wake up, to stand up and to speak up when we see racism and injustice.  This is how we love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is how we act like Jesus.  This is how we do justice and love goodness (Micah 6:8).   This is how we make a safe lodging for all.  This is how we begin the healing from racism in our land, writing a new parable of racial justice for this time.


Peace be with you.


What has the ELCA been doing?

The ELCA has been working for many years to combat racism and social injustice.  We are not perfect but we recognize the sin of racism and pray for God to help us to heal our society and cleanse this vice from our midst.   You can find multiple social statements, news releases, and messages from the ELCA and our Synods on a variety of issues relating to racism, ethnicity, culture, social justice, voting rights and racial justice, tribal sovereignty, environmental racism, and combating white supremacy on our ELCA focus page here.