Jesus on Racism

In first century Israel Jews were prejudiced against Samaritans.

The Samaritans were remnants of the Northern kingdom of Israel, which had established its capital in Samaria.

Judah, the Southern kingdom, had established its capital in Jerusalem.

When the Assyrians invaded and carried away the Jews into captivity, those living in Samaria who remained intermarried with other non-Jewish people groups.

As a result, Samarians were not seen as pure Jews. Jewish prejudice was religious as well, rooted in a dispute over the proper place to worship God. See John 4: 20 (“Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”)

Consequently, Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans, as John noted. See John 4:9 (“For Jews do not associate with Samaritans”). It is also believed by many historians, that Jews would even walk around Samaria rather than through it when traveling north from Jerusalem.

All of this is partly what makes Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan remarkable. The parable is Jesus’ response to a lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” It was a fair question, even if poorly motivated. Luke 10:29. Jesus had just told the lawyer the great commandment was to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. Luke 10:27. The definition of “neighbor” determined whom the lawyer was required to love.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is not primarily about racism. It is about the the breadth of the commandment to love others. Jesus’ point was that everyone is a neighbor, meaning the obligation to love others applies to all those around us.

But what is significant is that in making the larger point about love, Jesus took a clear swipe at the racism of his day by making the Samaritan the hero of the story. At the end of the story, Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Luke 10:36.

The Samaritan was the lawyer’s neighbor, and therefore, the lawyer was to love the Samaritan as he loved himself, meaning the lawyer was to love all those people around him. The lawyer, perhaps struggling with his own prejudice, could not even say, “the Samaritan” and instead said, “the one who had mercy.” Luke 10:37.

Jesus not only taught against racism; He lived what He taught. John recounts Jesus passing through Samaria and stopping at the well. John 4:1-29. A Samaritan woman approached the well. The normal Jewish racist response was to ignore and not speak to the woman because of her race and gender. Instead, Jesus engaged her and ministered to her. She was shocked. John 4:9. When Jesus’ disciples return they are shocked. John 4:27.

As the kingdom of God expands on the earth, and people become increasingly obedient to King Jesus, racism will become a thing of the past. It will become a thing of the past because Jesus did not tolerate it, does not tolerate it, and He demands nothing less of His followers. GS

Church Services During The Pandemic?

Should churches be holding worship services in the midst of the pandemic?

I don’t think it’s a hard question.

But it has apparently become difficult to answer.

My goal here is to hopefully bring some clarity to the issue and clear away some of what obfuscates providing an answer.

Let me start by saying if you believe the pandemic is not real but the result of a conspiracy between Anthony Fauci and Trump-hating Democrats, or that the 98,000 American deaths from COVID-19 are grossly exaggerated because of a secret agreement to miscode them, or that COVID-19 is no more deadly or contagious than the flu, you need not read any further.  Continue reading

Kingdom History: The Plague of Justinian

Justinian was emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 527 A.D. to 565 A.D.

Justinian ruled from Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the richest city in the world, and the capital of Christendom.

Constantinople was surrounded on three sides by water, and its land facing side was protected by wall 40 feet high and 4 miles long. That wall would successfully protect the city from invasion for 1,100 years.

In addition, the Byzantines had Greek Fire, the best kept secret and most powerful weapon of the medieval world, and only the Byzantines had it. It was the medieval equivalent of a nuclear weapon.

In 533 A.D. Justinian published the Institutes of Justinian, a codification of Roman law considered one of the great achievements in legal history, was published.

Then in 537 A.D. Justinian completed construction of the Hagia Sophia, the largest church in the world. It would remain the largest church in the world for the next 1,000 years.

I’m guessing then that by 537 A.D., Justinian was feeling pretty good about himself, his city, and his empire.

Then, in 542 A.D., the plague hit. As Julius Norwich described it in his History of Byzantium: Continue reading

Kingdom History: The Plague of Cyprian

Most people would say having a plague named after you is not something you’d hope for.

But all things considered it’s probably better than being forgotten.

In the case of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, my guess he is would not complain.

Cyprian would know, as you now know, that the plague is named after him because of his letter describing how Christians should respond to the plague.

The letter has survived 1800 years and provides the most vivid description of a plague some contend changed the course of the Roman Empire.

The plague of Cyprian struck in 249 and hung around for nearly twenty years, although the worst of the plague was seen in the years 249 A.D. to 262. The plague was so contagious some believed it was passed through sight and others attributed it to “corrupted air” that had swept through the Roman Empire, but even worse, the symptoms were grisly and deadly. As Cyprian wrote: Continue reading

On Cheating in Baseball and Marriage

I watched last fall with some fascination the scandal that engulfed the Houston Astros after their sign-stealing scheme was exposed.

My fascination arose not from the fact they cheated at baseball but the public’s reaction to their cheating.

I didn’t realize we held such high standards.

In the kingdom of God–that is to say, when the world functions as it was created to function, and does so under voluntary submission to King Jesus–baseball is a form of entertainment. That’s it.

That is not to diminish baseball. I’ve come to love Major League Baseball. But notwithstanding the salaries of the athletes, the merchandising and commercialization of the sport, ultimately it is merely a form of entertainment, not unlike a Bruno Mars or Beyonce concert. Continue reading