An amazing man, Jesus. Yes, there are those of us who believe he was the Son of God, but even if you don’t believe, the stories of his life provide the greatest inspiration and the deepest challenges.
In chapels this week we looked at one element of his life that serves as a powerful and pertinent reminder to all of us. Jesus did not allow difference to create division.
Israel, in the period around 30 A.D., was more divided than any of us will ever experience. It was governed by the invading Romans, who were hated by those who had been invaded (the Jews and Samaritans), and those two groups had hated each other for centuries. Amongst Romans, Jews and Samaritans alike there was a strong division between men and women where, unless they were related, they did not talk to each other.
Yet Jesus ignored all of this and chose to converse with a Samaritan woman at a well, first asking for water and then discussing her life. After her initial shock she listened to his words and her life was profoundly changed.
When approached by a Roman Centurion, a lead soldier of the enemy, Jesus took time to hear his story and then to heal his servant.
The highest religious authorities in the Jewish religion, the Pharisees and Sadducees, did not get on and were generally despised by the population. Jesus, though he condemned their teachings, took time to develop relationships with them to the point that the spices and plot for his burial were provided by Pharisees.
No one liked tax collectors, yet Jesus very publicly invited himself to one’s home for dinner.
Lepers were condemned to live alone away from the community because it was believed that leprosy was transferred by touch, yet Jesus healed them by putting his hands on them.
The first lesson for all of us in this, the one shared at chapel, was that Jesus looked beyond where people were different to what was shared in common, as should we. The strength to accept and celebrate diversity comes from exercising the power of the bonds we have in common: the desire to be happy, to love and be loved, to be safe, and to be free to express our talents.
The second, even more pertinent, lesson to be drawn from Jesus’ actions is that they were always prompted by and directed to the person’s need. Every story about Jesus declares that the race, religion, gender, wealth or reputation of a person was never a barrier to his care. The ultimate expression of this was his death, as it says in Romans 5:8 “But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.
So then, the question we need to ask when we judge, for judge we all do, is not “who are you?”, or “where are you from?”, or “what have you done?”; it is “what do you need?” and “how can I help you in it?”
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