The Good Muslim
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Luke 10:33
My family moved to Minnesota in 2002, less than a year after the 9/11 attacks. During the next few years, a wave of immigrants and refugees – mostly Muslim – from East Africa arrived in our small town. Though I’m ashamed to admit it now, at the time, I was wary. I didn’t think it was a good idea to allow those who followed a different god and those who didn’t like our way of life, into our country.
Over the years, God has used many experiences and people to expose my own foolishness, animosity, and bigotry. Reading today’s passage was one such experience. In the story, a Jewish leader asked Jesus what it meant to love his neighbor. Jesus told the story of a man who was traveling alone when he was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Both a Jewish priest and a worship leader passed by, refusing to help. Then, a Samaritan came along, revived him, and paid his medical expenses.
The story is about loving one’s neighbor, but the characters Jesus chose taught another radical lesson and exposed the hypocrisy of religious racism. The Samaritans were despised by the Jews who looked down on them as half-breeds and infidels. It was no accident that Jesus made the Jewish religious elite out to be the villains of the story and the Samaritan to be the hero. In doing so, he showed how one can believe all the right things and still behave horribly. Likewise, those whom we believe to follow the wrong god, often act better than we do.
If Jesus told this story to me 15 years ago, the story wouldn’t have been about The Good Samaritan, but rather The Good Muslim. Like the Samaritan in the story, it has taken countless positive encounters with the Muslim population in my community to change my thinking.
This may be natural, but it’s sad to me that it took so long. Looking back, I can see that even if the Muslim population had been hostile to me and my way of life (they weren’t) that I should have embraced them. Even if the East Africans were my enemies (they aren’t), Jesus taught that I should love them. That fact that they’ve now made it easy to love them shows that they’ve acted rightly, while I’ve been a bigot.