Street gangs use different colors to identify which gang they belong to. Sport fans wear the logos of their favorite teams to show to whom they are loyal. As we move into the elections for a new president bumper stickers will identify which candidate or political party the driver supports.
It is not only common to identify ourselves with one group or another it also has a long history. Not long after God made this promise to Abraham:
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”(Genesis 12)
there was a dividing of the nation into twelve tribes based on the twelve sons of Abraham. Forgetting that God had said that He chose Abraham to bless all families of the earth, the sons of Abraham took God’s blessing as theirs to keep for themselves and to exclude others. The end result was disastrous. This nation blessed by God split in two, Judah and Israel, which elected separate kings and fought each other to the weakening of each and eventual destruction of both. The great unifying accomplishment of the Ukrainian people by The Holy-Equal to the Apostles Prince Vladimir, was undone by his sons who fought each other to establish their own families as sole rulers over their brethren, with the same results.
St Paul observed divisions arising in the church in Corinth.
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? (1 Corinthians)
How could St Paul keep silent about their divisive actions when Christ had said:
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17)
In the parable of the Good Samaritan the lawyer questions Christ (and therefore his teachings). He was trying to find fault in Christ. This is shown when Christ asks:
“He said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou?”
And the Lawyer responds:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.”
The Law of Moses does not put greater value on these two commandments, nor does it put them together in this way. Furthermore the Jews did not make an effort to fulfill these two commandments of love even though they did try to fulfill the others. He was trying to discredit Christ and His teachings before others. But Christ did not take the bait. He states that the lawyer has answered correctly.
The lawyer tries again to trap Christ by asking who his neighbor is. He knew that no matter whom Jesus described as neighbor, this would cause those excluded to be offended. Instead Jesus shows the weakness of the mind and its logic.
The mind needs to divide things. Up must have a down, far a near, darkness a light, heavy a different kind of light, and so on. It needs this dividing to be able to tell us how to drive to the store and order a birthday cake. But when it comes to making us one, as Jesus desires, our mind fails because when it chooses one group to belong to, logically it puts us at odds with all outside of that group. Jesus avoids this trap by addressing the heart of the lawyer instead of his mind in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jewish religious leaders taught that it was wrong to have any contact with the Samaritans, to enter their territory or even to speak to them. During the New Testament period numerous violent confrontations between Jews and Samaritans were reported throughout the first half of the first century
The lawyer chooses the hated Samaritan as his neighbor over his countrymen, the priest and the Levite, in the parable, because the Samaritan shows compassion on the man who was beaten. Jesus forced him to put aside his mind’s labels, Samaritan=bad and Levite or priest=good, and instead base his choice on what his heart knew to be important, compassion and charity. Jesus shows that it is not the group you belong to that joins you to God but the way you carry out His commandments.
We all belong to groups; short or tall, rich or poor, male or female, our family, old calendar or new, and many, many more. Each has the potential to divide us from one another and, therefore, from God. If we want to join ourselves to God, we too must put aside our logic and our prejudices. When we say in the Creed that God is the creator of all things we then must accept that when we exclude anyone from our love and compassion, we exclude ourselves from God at least partially, and permanently if we do not repent.
God warned the Jews that He loves and has a special concern for those who do not belong to the Jews:
He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. (Deuteronomy 10:18)
The LORD preserveth the strangers; (Psalm 146:9),
He commanded the Jews to do the same
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34).
God also commanded the Israelites to treat the foreign born the same as they treated native-born Israelites
One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you (Ex 12:49),
but they did not observe these instructions (for example, they hated the Samaritans).
In this parable Jesus shows that when we behave the same way and exclude anyone, no matter the reason, then we do not belong to Him, the source of eternal life.
In Matt 25:31-46 (the last judgment) Christ tells us that what we do to each other we do it also to Him. If we fail to show love to anyone because of their nationality, color of skin, family, or any other reason, we exclude Him too.
In John 13:34-36 He clearly defines what it takes to belong to Him and, therefore, receive eternal life:
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
Let us follow the example of the Samaritan and not the two who passed by and ignored the man left for dead. Let us ask God to help us see our prejudices, and ask for help to overcome them, to be one with others, and to love one another, to belong to Christ.
Fr. John Haluszczak