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Tag: Racism

Lenten Reflections 2021: What does Following Jesus Have to do with Racism?

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 @johnvinod | March 22, 2021

In an unending series of racial violence and hate crimes, the latest to break our hearts is a young Christian man in Georgia, USA, last week. He went on a killing spree, especially targeting Asian women. One of his victims was a single mother of South Korean descent, Hyun Jung Grant, who was raising two young boys working hard in a spa. As the followers of Christ, we cannot overlook this when members of our own families and churches pick up guns and go around destroying innocent families and leaving young orphans in its aftermath. Let us, therefore, read today Luke 10: 25-37.

One of the reasons, racial violence and hate crimes go on unabated in the majority Christian countries, targeting people of color, is because our churches have not been bold enough to teach or preach on the issues of racism and ethnocentrism. Not just churches, but it is rare to find among the luminaries of western theologians, in the past centuries, who have included the issues of racism or colonialism in their theological treatises. The reason is simple: it was not an issue they had to deal with.

However, reading the gospels, we come across Jesus who was born, raised, and ministered during the Roman colonization of Israel. Even within Israel, he was aware of the racial intolerance among the Jews, the Gentiles, and the Samaritans. Therefore, Jesus made it his business to address the issue of racial discrimination and hatred throughout his ministry. One such teaching is in today’s text in Luke 10: 25-37. It is a familiar parable of Jesus found only in Luke’s gospel. Everything in his story was going normal until Jesus introduced a Samaritan. The lawyer who was testing him, Jesus’ disciples, and the those who were listening in were all Jewish people and they did not anticipate that Jesus, being a Jewish guru, would show the Samaritan in the limelight as he did.

Imagine the predicament of the lawyer. He had to answer Jesus’ probing question after listening to the shocking parable of the Samaritan who showed compassion and mercy to the Jewish man, he had found laying wounded on the side of the road. The lawyer knew the honest answer to Jesus’s question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10: 36). However, he could not bring himself up to openly say, “the Samaritan”! His prejudices of the Samaritan people would not permit him to agree with Jesus’ proposition that a Samaritan would demonstrate how to value human life in need, irrespective his ethnic differences with the needy. He did not expect the Samaritan man to come out as the hero of the story because he had always stereotyped them as evil and unclean people who would never do good for the Jewish people. It was Jesus’ purpose to shatter such prejudices and stereotypes about the other.

Jesus dumbfounded not only the lawyer, but each of us today who reads this story by saying, “You go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37 ESV). This parable forces listeners to decide what they should be doing. Do like the Samaritan, not like what your own people are doing. The lawyer had asked Jesus what he should do, Jesus told him exactly what to do, i.e., get in the habit of demonstrating your mercy like the Samaritan did for the needy and wounded people on the margins of your busy life. Permit such people often to interrupt and pause our schedules and business as usual rut. So that we may reach out to them to be good neighbors irrespective of their color of skin, physical appearance, social status, or ethnic background.

To “what must I do,” even today Jesus replies: “Go, and do likewise,” as the Samaritan man did. May we choose to follow Jesus Christ.

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Lenten Reflections 2021: How did Jesus Use His Privileges?

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@johnvinod | March 17, 2021

On March 16th, in a racially charged hate crime, several Asian women were shot dead by a young white man in a shooting spree at massage parlors in Georgia, USA. This is just one of the numerous incidents during a recent spike in the racist anti-Asian hate crimes in the USA and Canada during the pandemic. This leads me to reflect on how did Jesus deal with his privilege and race.

Did Jesus Christ acknowledge that these issues existed during his time? Was he privileged? What did he do with his privileged position, power, and authority? What can we learn from Jesus’ life and mission today, especially during this Lenten season? In the past few days, we have been reflecting on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness. The question for me is: why did he go through this experience? Was there no other way to save his Jewish people and then the rest of humanity?

Jesus Christ was indeed privileged in more than ways than one. First, he was divine. Even when he took flesh like you and me, he was still divine. That is why he could do those miracles, signs, and wonders. That is why he was able to overcome death through his resurrection. Jesus Christ was also privileged to be born in a Jewish family as a male. He understood he was a privileged Jewish man, and it showed through some of his sayings and views toward other people groups.

However, the question is: What did Jesus do with his privileged position? First, the Bible tells us that he humbled himself to the point of suffering in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil. The book of Hebrews reminds us what this means for us who may be bewildered by the racially prejudiced acts and hatred of some privileged Christians. If you are at a point that continuing to follow Jesus seems unbearable, listen to this encouragement from Jesus’ wilderness:

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 12-16 ESV).

Second, the Apostle Paul writes that Jesus emptied himself and his privileged position and status. He laid aside his glory and the privileges that come with being God.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 4: 3-8 ESV).

Friends, we are all privileged in one or the other area of our life. It could be the pigment of our skin, family, upbringing, education, language skills, or something else. Instead of denying bigotry and denying the inherent privileges and certain systems that help us maintain our privileges; as the followers of Christ, we must ask ourselves: Are we following Christ and his example? Are we willing to humble ourselves to the extent of laying aside our privileges and make way for non-privileged people?

Permit Jesus, who suffered in the wilderness and on the cross, confront and challenge us today. May we acknowledge and use our privilege, as children of God, in making our world more acceptable and livable for others who do not look like us. May we use our privilege to walk alongside the people from a different ethnic group than our own because that is the way to demonstrate that we follow Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.

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