Looking out, I see the rain and think, “What a glorious sight!” It pounds down, seeping into the ground, even filling the swimming pool outback. It’s been several years since we have had adequate rains, and once again, dam levels sit dangerously low. But then I think of those living just down the road in Khayelitsha, over two million people, many of them living in small tin shacks. Do they see a glorious sight as rising water seeps under their doors and floods their sleeping rooms? In the middle of the night, as it rocks like steel mallets on a tin roof accompanied by howling winds, do their children robbed of sleep see a glorious sight? We need the rain. That is not the issue, but year after year, the problem persists. How can this be? How can some be so poor and at risk while others, just kilometers away enjoy such luxury.
If South Africa were an impoverished land with no resources at its disposal, I could understand, but the wealth that exists here is truly mind-boggling. The complexity of the issues make easy solutions impossible. What began with apartied, an evil and racist system that divided the people and the resources by race, has morphed and sunk roots in many different directions. Does racism still exist? Of course. Has a shift from a minority to a majority government changed much? Not really. So my question becomes, where is the church in all of this?
Certainly, this season of Covid-19 with its strict lockdown rules has brought the plight of the most at risk to the front, and the church has responded. Efforts are being made to feed children and to distribute food parcels to families who are barred from their source of income. But, do we attempt to appease our consciences with a band-aid? Will our concern fly away with the easing of restrictions? Or, will we take a closer look at ourselves and at the issues at hand?
I am convinced that God calls us to a wider view of who we are as the body of Christ. In our narrow focus, we tend to see and feel most connected to those who seem most like us. But even then, we keep our “social distance.” I will pray for you. I may even lend a hand at my convenience. But far be it from me to see you in such a light as to cause me to look out for your interests in the same way I look out for my own. Sound radical? But what about Philippians 2:3-4.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Doesn’t Jesus make the same point in His story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37? How much did it cost that man to see his “neighbor” restored to health. The Samaritan did not stop to ponder the Jewish man’s plight and what he had done to get himself there. He does not point a finger and give suggestions for improving his condition or avoiding it the next time. He does not even demand that the injured man meet him halfway in the process. He simply steps in and does what he can to help. He saw a human being. He recognized the need. He engaged, using his own resources, putting his own interests behind. The wonder of this story comes in the fact that they probably had little in common. They may not have even liked each other. But the Samaritan saw the humanity of the injured man while others ignored it. He recognized their connection as image bearers and did the only reasonable thing.
What about us? Are we willing to open our eyes to see our neighbor? Are we willing to acknowledge that we are bound by humanity even when social circumstances separate us. This season has cast a large spotlight on our neighbors. In South Africa, it shines on the economically disadvantaged. In the US, the racially marginalized and oppressed have been brought into focus. Jesus came to such as these. Are we willing to open our eyes and see what He sees? Are we willing to listen for His solutions? Are we willing to be the loving, caring body of Christ to our neighbor?