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The New Testament and Racism

Last week’s blog looked at what the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) offers Christians considering racism in America. This week, I am daring to move into the Christian Scriptures to see some of what both Jesus and St. Paul have to offer my ongoing journey.  Remember, this is a look at love as Jesus defined it, which is to put the other first in your thoughts and actions, or as Bishop Barron says, “to will the good of the other.”

Mark 12: 30-31  Jesus says, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, 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.”   This, the Great Commandment, makes it clear that loving one another is the greatest work of faith we are charged with doing.  In the history of the United States , which sees itself as a Judeo-Christian nation, this Great Commandment was patently ignored by state and federal government, and religious institutions.  How could this be?

Luke 10: 25-37  Perhaps the most well-known of all of Jesus’ teachings, the story of the Good Samaritan provides a direct challenge to exclusion based on race, historic animosity and religious purity laws.  A Samaritan crosses each of those boundaries and provides care for a Jew.  It makes me wonder, am I willing to cross my racial comfort boundaries and step out to both care for my black and brown neighbors, and to advocate for changes in systems and structures that historically ignore them?

John 13:34  Jesus says, “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one .”  In this verse, Jesus does not speak of loving only Jews, or loving only Romans, or hating Romans or any other ethnic group.  “One another” means ALL others no matter what.  How does one go about determining the good of another when you have no contact with them?  What now, when I am realizing that not only am I not doing this across race boundaries, but I don’t even know where to start?

1 John 4:7  John tells us:  “Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  Loving the other means more than just family members and friends.  The love that John speaks of is a love equal to the love that God has for us.  Therefore, if we wish to enjoy the benefits of God’s love, we must treat the other with the same kind of love.   Do I need the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage to love so radically?  Maybe I do.

Romans 12:10  St. Paul says to the Roman Church:  “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”  Not only do we will the good of the other but we go out of our way to give preference to the other, sometimes to our own detriment.  But if it lifts up the other, we are bound, as disciples of Christ, to do it.  Can I call myself a disciple of Christ if I don’t see myself lifting others up?  Do I sin by omission or commission?

Romans 13:8  St. Paul, again to the Roman Church:  “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the Law.”  The rest is commentary.  If our largest debt was cased in love, would we be able to fulfill ?

Participating in JustFaith on Racism makes me wonder how I show my love of God by willing and doing the good of the other.  How do our faith communities do this?  How does my support for different legislation show it?  Looking at the above scriptures, can I say I’m a real disciple of Christ?

My journey of being given sight, awakened from my slumber, arising from the graves of ignorance and privilege gives rise to this question:  Do our Black/Brown/Asian brothers and sisters have the joy that comes with knowing they are free; from sin, from hate and oppression, from violence and death at the hands of their neighbors?  Worth pondering this Eastertide indeed.

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