This devotional was written by Allan Harvey for the 2017 Lent booklet of First Presbyterian Church of Boulder, Colorado
Scripture Passage: The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?” “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. (John 8:48-51)
Reflect: Demonizing ethnic outsiders is not unique to modern politics; it happened to Jesus 2000 years ago. Jewish leaders who disliked his message didn’t stop at calling him demon-possessed. They also tried to discredit him as a “Samaritan.” The Samaritans were considered racially impure; a similar insult today might be “half-breed.” Jesus (who was not a Samaritan) ignored the racial insult and focused on the important question, whether or not God was being honored.
It is easy to criticize others who display un-Christlike attitudes for superficial reasons like ethnicity, but if we are honest with ourselves we will admit that we are all at least a little like these Pharisees who dishonored Jesus. I know that I have (usually silently) dishonored and demeaned people with labels like “fundamentalist” or “redneck” – your mileage (and your labels) may vary. It is in our sinful human nature to see things in “us versus them” categories, and to hold prejudices against “them.”
Jesus blew apart the prejudices and stereotypes of his day, reaching out to disfavored people like Samaritans, tax collectors, and women. His radically inclusive love was a factor in getting him killed. In his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus identified with all tribes and nations, then and now (theologians say he especially identified with marginalized “them” people). Jew or Samaritan, rich or poor, liberal or conservative or moderate, American or Mexican or Syrian, redneck or urban elite – Jesus transcends our human-constructed divisions for the sake of honoring the Father and fulfilling his mission to bring new life to the world. It is a challenge for all of us who follow Jesus to have the same attitude, exhibiting sacrificial love toward “them” rather than caring only about “us.”
Respond: What prejudices or stereotypes might you need to give up at Lent? How can you help the church become one that sees all of our neighbors throughout the world (even the ones where our instinct is to label them as different and dangerous) through the loving eyes of Jesus?