A Jesus Who Has Love For All Races
Pastor Duane Smets
September 24th, 2017
I. A Tough Subject
II. A Timely Story
III. A Tender Savior
Good morning everyone. It’s good to be here with you all today. I want to especially welcome those of you who are new or newer to our church. We’re stoked you came.
I try to hang out at the front gate welcoming people in and learning a few names here and there. Sometimes it takes me two or three times doing that name exchange thing but eventually I get it. I try hard. But a lot of times I forget the next week and feel really bad. That’s why sometimes I just stick to “dude.” My main problem is that all you white people just look the same to me. :)
There really is a lot of people who are new to our church and we’re excited about that and really want to try hard to figure out how to create comfortable spaces where we can get to know each other. It’s not always easy, so you can pray for us in that. We we’re trying the food truck thing, hoping you all would stick around, grab some food and then hang out and talk together but that wasn’t really working. So feel free to throw ideas our way.
For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Duane. I’m one of six pastors here, who all serve together under our head pastor Jesus and my role is being the preaching and vision pastor.
This year we are studying and preaching through the book of Luke in the Bible. It’s a great book and more than any other book that recorded the life of Jesus Luke’s highlights Jesus’ special love for the outcast, the marginalized, the mistreated and the forgotten. Jesus reaches out to the poor, the sick, and the disenfranchised. He cares for and calls for a love for people of all ages, classes and races.
Today, we’re going to be looking at one of the most provocative stories Jesus ever told, where He very cleverly, pointedly and compassionately addresses one of the most touchy issues that has ever existed…that of race. Throughout the story of the Bible, race is an issue and in the story of Jesus we’re looking at today we’re going to see how Jesus lays out God’s love as the solution.
So let’s all stand and read God’s Word for today penned by Dr. Luke.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
Alright. Normally I’ve got some sort of clever introduction hook that’s probably not as clever as I think it is and then I give you a one liner take away and then we jump into the text. But I’m gonna skip that today in light of what we’re talking about and just get right into our outline today. I’ve got three points: “A Tough Subject”, “A Timely Story” and “A Tender Savior.”
I. A Tough Subject
With this first point I just want to try to acknowledge the difficulty of this subject. There’s probably not a more loaded topic in our country right now than race. Charlottesville, multiple racially charged shootings and political election positions and opinions have made the topic of race a powder keg.
Hundreds and hundreds of news articles have been written. TV spots, interviews, polls, podcasts and high profile actors and musicians have all been weighing in. There’s literally been thousands and thousands of social media posts thrown all around the internet with seemingly everyone giving their two cents.
Race, for us today, in the USA is a touchy touchy subject. Honestly, it makes me scared to talk about this morning. I’m standing here as a white male, which in and of itself carries something and says something, which may not make me the best person to even be addressing this. But I’m here, and this is my job and we’re talking about it today because of Jesus and because it’s the next section in Luke, not because of some axe we have to grind or because we’re reacting to some other event that went down.
Which I’m actually really grateful for. We really want to get ahead of the curve on race in our church because we know there are going to other things that happen in our country with race and we believe God wants Jesus’ church to be a place for healing and hope. And we believe God’s Word is whole and has in it what we need to form and shape us into the church He wants us to be.
But I’m nervous a bit today. A little bit scared that I won’t say the right thing and end up offending some of you. Which is never something I’m after.
So what I want to say is, I’m an imperfect man, I’m not Jesus. I’m not going to say everything just right, so grant me some grace, I’m just doing the best job I can.
The other thing I want to say is that I think when it comes to difficult and challenging subjects, especially ones where we know there are a lot of high emotions about, I think it’s helpful to start with our own personal feelings and story about the subject.
Whether we like it or not whenever we come to a passage of the Bible or whenever a certain issue or topic comes up, we carry within ourselves a host of presuppositions. We each have a personal life story with various experiences implanted in our memories that form and shape our attitudes and perspectives on things.
That’s why two different people can read the same exact passage of the Bible and end up with two completely different interpretations of it. Or that’s why two different people can witness the exact same event and have two completely different perspectives on what went down.
I saw this the other day and did a double take at this bearded man. Turned out he didn’t have a beard at all.
The other day one of my daughters came screaming hysterically into my room saying there was a spider in the kitchen. So I went in there to kill it and it turned out to be just a piece of fuzz. She’d recently been bit by a spider on her arm so she is hypersensitive to seeing spiders.
Our experience can effect our perspective and that’s why beginning with our experience and our story can be the gateway to opening the door for connection on challenging subjects like race.
When it comes to race we all have a perspective and an experience. We all are born with a certain color of skin and we have no control over that. We don’t get to pick our race or even our names.
My earliest memories of church are being at an all black church in south central LA. The pastor was my Dad’s Bible college mentor and so I was there as the only white kid, dressed in a three piece suit in a sea of black. I’m pretty sure that’s why my parents named me Duane. No joke, just last week at the airport this black ticket agent at the counter goes oh, “You’re the first white guy I’ve ever met named Da-wayne!” I took it as a complement.
Because of my experience I’ve never thought of myself as a racist or that I’ve had racist perspectives or tendencies. But regardless of your race at some point when you’re growing up you get introduced to different values and explanations for race.
My first memory of racism is from my grandpa. When I was staying at his house in the summer in Encinitas sometimes I would be watching TV and I used to love watching the Cosby show. But if I ever put it on when he was in the room he’d say, “Get those chocolate drops off the screen.” So I learned at a very young age that some adults had strong negative feelings about race.
I’ve been learned a lot lately from my all assistant Hakim who’s black. He told me that when he was fairly young his father sat him down and told him, “Look son, we live in a white world which means there’s certain ways you need to act and behave in order to be successful in it.” My friend Steve Bowlin has shared with me similar things about how racial profiling is a real thing and that getting pulled over as a black man can be a very scary thing, which he’s experienced.
I think part of the challenge we have as a people today is that we tend to think very individualistically. No one wants to think of themselves as a racist. Yet, even though we may have never been the direct actor of some racist crime, we live in country where there has been a history of abuse and injustice that in many ways, we often unknowingly perpetuate and condone. And we have to own up to that and do our best to speak up and speak out against it.
So we’re going to get into the text and the story from Jesus in a minute here. But I thought it was important for me to start out by saying that I repent of my family’s racism and the ways I’ve personally been insensitive to the plight of my fellow black, brown, and asian brothers and sisters. I want to use my white privilege to bring about racial healing. I’m trying to learn how to listen and enter into relationships which reflect the love and diversity of our God.
I don’t think homogeny is the goal. I think harmony is. God doesn’t want everyone the same. He made us different and means for those differences to be celebrated. But I think harmony requires us learning about and appreciating our differences by entering into relationships where the love of God can flow.
Race is a tough subject. It’s a little uncomfortable to talk about. But Jesus wasn’t afraid to address it. So let’s jump in and see what He says in our next point for today, “A Timely Story.”
II. A Timely Story
I called this point a “Timely Story” not only because it is a timely story for us in light of the year we’ve had in the US so far but also because of how it was timely discussion Jesus had when He tells this story which addresses race and the love of God.
The Bible teaches us in Galatians 4:4 that at just the right time in all of human history Jesus came into the world and in Romans 5:6 that at just the right time Jesus died on the cross.
Experts have pointed to many things which may have made it the right time, things like a common Greek language that had been spread across the world so the message of Jesus could easily be communicated and common Roman roads to travel so that the message of Jesus could spread. Things like that are invariably true.
However, I also think that perhaps part of the reason it as the right time was because of what the world looked like racially at the time. The middle east was a melting pot for people of all different races and colors of skin. You’ve got Greeks, Italians, Egyptians, Asians, Jews, Persians, Samaritans and many more. Black people from Ethiopia are talked about, the wise men who came to see Jesus after He was born were Asian, Jews are all over the place and of course the white Romans.
The world of Jesus’ day actually in many ways resembled the racially mixed melting pot we see and experience here in San Diego. And back then, like now, racial tensions were high.
So let’s do this. Let’s walk through this story step by step to try and get a sense of what was going down here.
The story starts off with this lawyer who stands up out of the crowd to challenge and test Jesus. Lawyer might not be the best translation, he’s a Jewish law expert, a Levite scribe, basically a Bible scholar who’s sole job in life is to handwrite copies of the Bible and to study it’s words and meaning.
So this Bible scholar guy stands up and asks Jesus a very broad but at the same time one of most basic human questions we can ask, “What’s shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Basically he’s asking what the meaning and purpose of life?
Ever asked yourself that question, “What does it all mean?” Why am I here? What is life all about? How can life be good? Is there life after death? All those questions are wrapped up in this guy’s question to Jesus.
Jesus, masterfully answer’s this guy’s question with a question. It’s one of my favorite tactics anytime anyone asks me a difficult theology question. Like when I was on the 94.9 radio station this summer and they called me up to ask me if I thought that going to church makes you live longer. I flipped the question right away and asked Jason if he thought he would live longer not going to church. You can check it out on our church youtube site, it was a fun bit.
So Jesus flips the question and the lawyer guy actually answers masterfully quoting from Deuteronomy 6 the passage known as the “Great Shema” that most all Jews prayed every day.
On another occasion someone came up to Jesus and asked Him which of the commandments in all the Bible was the greatest and Jesus answered the same way saying, “The most important is: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:30-31).”
So the guy gives the right answer but then He asks Jesus a follow-up question, which revealed the duplicity and racism in his heart. In verse 29 in our passage he says to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
This Levite scribe belonged to an upper class portion of society. It was a respected job with respected privileges. They did not associate with the lowly or other races and prized themselves in maintaining the purity of the Jewish religion and people.
Jesus had been associating with people of all races, Jews and Gentiles, Luke’s been highlighting that. So most likely when this guy asks Jesus this question, he’s assuming Jesus will be forced to say something along the lines of “the Jewish people are my neighbor and my brothers” and then all the other races present would turn on him.
Jesus knew what the guy was doing. So he tells this story about a guy traveling the seventeen miles from the Jewish capital Jerusalem to the city of Jericho who gets robbed, stripped of his clothes, which probably means gang raped, he’s beaten and left for dead.
First a Jewish priest rolls by but wants nothing to do with him. Dead corpse were said to defile a person, so the priest literally did not want to get dirty and become ceremonially unclean.
Then comes a Levite, likely a scribe just like the dude who originally asked Jesus the question, but the Levite wants nothing to do with him. Jesus is jabbing at the dude hard at this point.
Then at this point the crowd probably thinks the hero will be a lowly poor Jewish man who will stop to help. They’re expecting Jesus to address the economic and social injustices in the land with this story.
But this Jesus says it was a Samaritan who sees the half-dead man and has compassion on him. At that point I’m sure there was probably an audible shock of “ah” in the crowd when Jesus said “Samaritan” because the Jews and Samaritans hated each other.
The Samaritans were a people group who came about by some Assyrians intermarrying with some Jews of the northern kingdom. They ended up building their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, which a Jewish king destroyed in the 2nd century BC. In turn, the Samaritans attempted to defile and destroy the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
So there’s been multiple racial killings and between the Jews and Samaritans. By the time of Jesus the racial tension was high. Here’s a couple quotes about how they felt about each other from that time period.
One Jewish author said, “Samaritans are a half breed race with a perverted form of worship. A foolish group not even to be recognized as a real people.”
One Samaritan author said, “Jews are dogs who should be thrown into a ditch and not pulled out.”
No love lost between these two groups. The Samaritan comes along on the road and would have known the beaten up man was a Jews by the color of his skin and the cut of his hair and beard. He sees him and he has “compassion” on him.
This is the third time in the book of Luke he’s used this special word “compassion”. It’s where one hurts deep in the their gut for another person and what they’re going through. I got a call this week from a friend who told me that he had just found out that the six year old neighbor boy molested his four year old son. He told me the story and then just started sobbed. I felt sick in my gut in compassion for my friend. I felt like throwing up. I began to cry with him and started to pray God’s love and comfort over him.
This Samaritan sees this man he’s supposed to hate because of the color of his skin and instead of hatred he feels compassion for him. He pours oil and wine on his wounds as medicine and tears off a piece of his own clothing to make bandages. He puts him on his own donkey and walks him all the way to Jericho and pays for a place for him to stay and recover up to any amount.
The Bible says he gave him two denarii and left the tab open. One denarii was about a day’s worth of wages, so he gives the inn keeper about $3-400 dollars or more, which probably would’ve paid for at least a week’s worth of stay back then.
The Samaritan, the Samaritan, the last person you would expect gives his heart, his possessions, his time and his money in order to extend this poor Jew the love and mercy of God.
You see, the true neighbor is one who is willing to look past differences that tend to divide us like race, nationality, religion and economic status…the true neighbor looks past all that to love others unconditionally.
What have you given or are you giving to show others God’s love? Are you giving your time away? Are you giving your money away? Are you giving your stuff away? Are you giving your heart away? Or are you walking by on the other side of the road.
Jesus said in John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is how He says to love one another. Racism is evil. Like all sin it divides and corrupts relationship. And that what God made us for, relationship with Him and with one another. To overcome the evil of racism it takes our heart, our time, our money and our stuff.
After this story, you would expect that this Bible scholar man would finally get it but he doesn’t, His heart is hard and dull. Jesus asks the guy his own question which now has an obvious answer, “Who’s the neighbor?” And the guy cannot even bring himself to say Samaritan. He just says, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus dismisses him.
The whole discussion started out talking about the love of God. God is not just an idea but a person and the heart of life and the meaning of life is about loving God and loving others. Racial discrimination, prejudice, and preference can derail the type of loving relationships God means for us to have.
When we know the love of God it’s meant to overflow into love for others. That’s what 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” And God’s love is a love that does. God didn’t just feel love toward us but sent His son Jesus.
If all we ever do is just talk about love then it’s just talk. Love does. And there’s no love like the love of God.
So let’s transition into our final point “A Tender Savior” and talk about that.
III. A Tender Savior
With this last point, I simply want to try and tell the story of race in the Bible and how it finds it fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
The Bible begins on the first page with God creating human beings in His image. That means from the start, all human beings, regardless of the color of their skin have value, dignity and worth.
Adam and Eve the first man and woman end up rebelling against God in the vision He had for humanity, fighting against God and against each other. The result is that spirit of division, disunity and strife gets passed down to their kids. Their first two sons get into an argument and one of them kills the other.
His name was Cain and Cain ends up leaving the family and goes off to to start a different race with one of his sisters. The rest of the family moves on and over hundreds of years the earth gets populated with all kinds of people and several different races form.
Then God comes along to a man named Abe and says He’s going to bless Him and through His family line use Him to be a blessing to all the races of the world. Abe then ends up being the beginning of a new race formed by God called the Jews.
After hundreds of years the Jews multiply becoming thousands of people but they end up in slavery in Egypt. They cry out to God who delivers them through a man named Moses. God reminds them of His promise to Abraham and once again calls them to be a race of people who are a blessing to all the races and peoples of the earth.
Then throughout the Biblical story there are a lot of ups and downs. Sometimes they fulfill that calling and sometimes it gets forgotten and left behind. In those times God would send these guys called prophets to remind the people of how God wanted them to be. Like Isaiah 49:9 which says, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
By the time Jesus comes on the scene the division are so great that Jews refused to even eat with anyone from another race. Much less invite them into their homes and cities to experience the light and love of God.
Jesus arrives as a Jew and begins welcoming all, ministering to all different types of people from all races, trying to bring people together and the Jewish leaders are shocked and upset. So guys like the guy in our story today try to trap him and call Him out on it.
But Jesus had a mission. In John 12:32 He says, “When I am lifted up from the earth (on the cross), I will draw all peoples to myself.” So a big part of Jesus goal in coming to earth and dying on the cross was to draw in and welcome people of all races to the love of God.
After Jesus rises from the dead He gives His disciples a mission and listen to what He says, Matthew 28:18-19 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all ethnicities.”
You might know the passage as saying “make disciples of all nations” but the word in the Greek is ethnos, where we get the word “ethnicity”. So Jesus’ purpose and mission for us is very much tied up with race.
As the original twelve disciples carry out the mission race becomes a primary feature. Peter has this vision from God, sees a bunch of people from different races becomes Christians and stands up at a big important meeting with all the church leaders and says that “God made no distinction between us (Jews) and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith (Acts 15:9).”
Much of what plays out from there is the church wrestling with and learning how to be a church full of people from different races with different colors of skin, different eating preferences, dress styles and all kinds of things. It’s all in the New Testament to read about. But again and again the message comes out clear, Jews and Gentiles, get along, be the church together.
The Apostle Paul says in Romans 9:24-26 that God has called people from Jews and Gentiles to be His beloved people as sons and daughters of the living God.
Then the Bible ends with this picture of heaven, Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
So the picture of God’s people, what the church is supposed to be and where it is headed is with people from every tribe and tongue worshipping Jesus together. This was the vision and plan of God in the beginning and it’s what’s going to happen, so we might as well get on board now and start practicing.
Diversity brings life. Having everything the same is not fun. Harmony is better.
In the story of the Samaritan from today, Jesus so clearly points out our need to love people, regardless of their race.
Anytime I read a story from the Bible I like to ask myself this question, “Who I am in the story?”
I think if we’re honest with ourselves, too often we’re one of the first two guys who pass by the broken and wounded guy. But that’s not how Jesus sees us. Jesus doesn’t condemn us but sees our brokenness, instead of being us as the guy who passed by He sees us as the guy in the ditch and has compassion on us.
Jesus knows how sin and the brokenness of this world has beat us up and sucked out the life and love of God from our hearts and He cares for us. He stooped down from heaven to earth to bind up our wounds so we might be healed.
When we experience that love from the Lord, there’s no person, whatever their race or condition that we cannot help but have compassion on.
May God move and work in us to be the kind of loving neighbors He calls us to be.
Well, I pray that today has been helpful for you. In a minute we’re going to respond as we do each week, by coming to one of the tables in the room where we take a piece of bread as Jesus perfect life and we dip it in the wine or the juice as His blood shed on the cross and we experience Him ministering to our souls.
Jesus is the Good Samaritan who offers His oil and wine as healing balms for our souls. How do you need Him to minister to you today?
Has God been speaking to you about a lack of compassion for people dealing with racial wounds and injustices and you need His love to fill your heart? Jesus arms are open wide.
Have you been a victim of racial or sexual abuse and mistreatment and you need the hope, healing and restoration of the savior? Jesus arms are open wide.