Sunday, February 10, 2008

This Samaritan Life | Christianity Today

This Samaritan Life | Christianity Today:
"... Gospel-writer Luke tells us of the Samaritan village that refused hospitality to Jesus and his followers. Why? Because they were Passover pilgrims headed for Jerusalem. Samaritans didn't like Jews doing their Jewish thing. James and John took the inhospitality for a religious affront; in fact, they were ready to firebomb the village (Luke 9:51–56). These groups had a familiarity that bred suspicion and mutual grudges.

So I sometimes find life in America. The problem is not that my religion is strange. The problem is that my religion is familiar. Like Samaritans and Jews, Christians and non-Christians have a partly shared worldview (our Western traditions, which include the Bible), a shared point of origin (Christendom), and well-defined points of contention (the exclusivity of Christ). We are familiar with what each other believes. We're suspicious of one another. So we start off with a grudge. ..."
Tim Stafford, a senior writer for Christianity Today, has written a good explanation of why Christians are the subject of much scorn and dislike, even in a nation that was founded by people who adhered to Christian principles.

He starts by reacting to a common belief that, metaphorically, we live in Babylon with all its attendant issues of just how we are to worship the Lord in a strange land. Tim Stafford suggest that, no, we live rather in Samaria. We live among people who have some knowledge of where we are coming from, and we have some knowledge of what drives them.

Without saying as much, Stafford provides evidence of what many conservatives have suspected for a long time -- that bigotry and discrimination directed against Christians (and specifically more conservative Christians) is acceptable in the larger society.

James and John were so indignant they wanted to carpet-bomb the hapless Samaritan village. I suppose it was not for nothing that Jesus called these two the "Sons of Thunder." But Jesus had a different approach -- walk to the next village and see how they were received. Jesus chose a way that was not quite a confrontational as his disciples might have preferred. Rather he chose to engage individual people, and some the the first converts were Samaritans.

Personally, I would take Tim Stafford's approach a little farther. Some of the most bitter attacks on Christians come not from secular society, but from within the Church. One does not need to look beyond the PC(USA) to see examples of what, in a secular context, would be described as "hate speech". It's something we need to work on.

A personal note: Reading Tim Stafford's writing is always a pleasure. I taught at Sterling College (Kansas) from 1977-1979 and the pastor at the Sterling Presbyterian Church was Tim's father, the late Chase Stafford, who in 1981 presided at my wife and my wedding. We had the opportunity to meet Tim while he was home for a visit. If memory serves, he was working with InterVarsity at the time.

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