A Parable for Today: An Observation on Racial Issues in America

We live in a fallen and broken world. I have heard many asking the question, “What can I, as an individual, do about this situation?” As I have pondered the pain, turmoil, and rage in America over the last two weeks, the 2,000-year-old Parable of the Good Samaritan has been on my mind from the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”.

How can we be good neighbors to those who need one? What does this parable mean for today?

The Good Samaritan was a neighbor to the man in need. In fact, he was a very Good Neighbor. He saw someone who had been robbed and injured lying alongside the road. He did not live next door. He was not the one who had physically attacked this poor soul. He was not responsible for taking care of him. And yet he did. He went above and beyond, and Jesus declared him as a Good Neighbor.

Three Types of Neighbors

There are three types of neighbors in our world: the Bad Neighbor, the Okay Neighbor, and the Good Neighbor.

The Bad Neighbor is easy to spot. The Bad Neighbor does not mow their yard, does not keep the fence in good repair, throws loud parties, and lets his barking dog run loose, leaving a mess behind for others to cleanup. None of us sets out to be a Bad Neighbor.

The Okay Neighbor keeps the lawn trimmed, the fence in good repair, and limits noises or other activities that would intrude on the peace of the remainder of the neighborhood. The Okay Neighbor says, “I will take care of my stuff, so you should take care of your stuff.” But it ends right there at the property line.

"At its core, this is an issue of human hearts. Until human hearts are changed, human behavior will not."—Dusty Rubeck, CDF Capital President

The Good Neighbor proactively helps their entire neighborhood. They check in with the other neighbors. They help others when storms arrive. They take food to their neighbors when needed. They bring neighbors together to build the community. In other words, they go above and beyond the comfortable border of their own property to care for others.

I am just an Okay Neighbor. It hurts to write these words. But they are true and the events of the last few weeks have helped me gain this bit of unpleasant clarity. Frankly, there are times I do not even like my neighbors.

Yet Jesus commands that I love them like myself. In fact, in another Scripture it makes clear that one cannot claim to love God while simultaneously hating their neighbor.

A Bad Neighbor is offensive to God. And I imagine God wants more from us than to simply be an Okay Neighbor, doing only the bare minimum. The Good Neighbor who goes above and beyond is pleasing to God and represents the best of what this parable teaches.

Of course, I am not just talking about our personal residence as the only definition of our neighborhood. America is our very large neighborhood.

Not All Good Neighbors

We Are All neighbors. But We Are Not All Good Neighbors.

George Floyd was a neighbor. I know very little about him, but his life ended tragically while he awaited a neighbor to rescue him. If Mr. Floyd was a neighbor, then police officer Derek Chauvin is also a neighbor. He did not behave as a Good Neighbor. I recognize the peaceful protestors as neighbors trying to improve the neighborhood—but the looters, they have not behaved as Good Neighbors.

America cannot be a Good Neighborhood if we are not all committed to being Good Neighbors. It is not enough to be an Okay Neighbor. It is not enough to be a Not-Bad Neighbor. We can do more.

"We are all neighbors. But we are not all Good Neighbors ... It is not enough to be a Not-Bad Neighbor. We can do more."       —Dusty Rubeck, CDF Capital President

There are many forms of racism in the world. The events of the last few weeks have brought us face-to-face with the specific issues of anti-black behavior. I am not an expert on the experience of living as a black person in America today, but when I observe all that is going on, it makes me deeply sad and concerned.

“‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Luke 10:27 (The words of Jesus)

Imagine how the world would change if all Christians arose in unity to be Good Neighbors.

The words above are my personal observations. Now I will take a moment to speak on behalf of the ministry of CDF Capital and our approach to this issue.

Obviously, there need to be changes in government, the law, and in law enforcement. Those changes will help, but they are not the entire answer. There need to be changes in educational opportunity, job opportunity, and social justice. Those changes will help, but they are not the entire answer either.

At its core, this is an issue of human hearts. Until human hearts are changed, human behavior will not. How are hearts changed?

We believe it is through the power of God. And we believe the primary place where people encounter God is through the life and leadership of vibrant churches. Their prophetic words, their acts of mercy and service, along with their commitment to influencing change make lasting impacts.

Therefore, we will continue our long-standing mission to help churches and church leaders grow. Our work has always been focused on and through the life of these churches. We will continue to do so.

In the days ahead we will be announcing the Good Neighbor Grant for churches in the CDF Capital Network. We will be setting aside up to $100,000 for 10 church/ministry grants for those who initiate creative plans to address the great challenges at hand. It is a small step, but it is part of being a Good Neighbor.