Friday, December 9, 2016

The Samaritans in Our Lives: Some Might Be Surprising

I gave a talk in a ward years ago about charity in which I asked the congregation to consider, very seriously, what their first reaction would be, internally, if they were in the middle of the administration of the sacrament and any of the following people walked into the chapel:

- a drunk man, reeking of alcohol and cigarette smoke
- a teenage girl with multiple tattoos and body piercings, wearing a mini skirt, tank top, fishnet stocking and combat boots
- two adult men holding hands and obviously a couple

I told them that they could understand their level of charity through that simple reaction as much as perhaps through any other way - and I told them that I hoped, eventually, every one of them would react immediately by thinking, "Thank God they found us," and by standing up and asking the person or couple to sit next to them for the rest of the meeting.

Yes, we have Samaritans, publicans, sinners and lepers in our lives, and we ought to think long and hard about who they are.

Maybe, for some people who are different than the stereotypical norm and/or who are struggling in some way with their faith, those "others" are the traditional, orthodox members in their lives; maybe, for some people who are the stereotypical, orthodox members who are rock solid in their faith, those "others" include active but different members in their lives.

That's worth considering, at least.


ji said...

Thanks. It is sometimes difficult to discern another's intent. If the person came in with a willingness to accept what we offer (to change themselves), that would be good. If the person came in with the intent of disrupting or challenging (to change everyone else), that would be sad. Any church is a faith community, and anyone attending any church will want to respect and adapt to that community's norms.

Papa D said...

I agree, ji, that intent is difficult to ascertain in many cases, but anyone attending to challenge or disrupt wouldn't classify as a Samaritan - and the focus of this post isn't on others' intent. The focus is on our perception and willingness to include those we normally avoid and exclude. I know you understand that (and I appreciate the statement of thanks), but I want to make it clear for anyone else who reads it.

Also, I agree that, eventually, group members tend to adhere to norms - but if cultural norms, in particular, become more important than people . . . we risk becoming a church of latter-day Pharisees, especially since we already conflate too much of culture with Eternal Gospel.