Been pushing hard the last few days preparing for and then giving two teaching webinars. This afternoon I took a long, much needed walk to savor God’s beautiful creation, to be renewed, and to pray for transformative results from offering my best on the topic of loving our neighbors, especially those not from our cultural or religious tribe.
I came up with a new term after reading and contemplating on relevant passages in the New Testament in preparation for my webinar talks. Samaraphobia. If you’re interested read a longer section from Luke 9:51 thru 10:37. This section finishes with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. As a child in Sunday School I was always impressed with the compassion of the Samaritan but never understood the impact of this story until I started building bridges with my religious other and saw that Jesus was making the enemy in that story, and now also for any of us who read that passage with an open heart, the HERO! It was the person on the outside of the original community, gathering around Jesus, and often hated by that very community, who was the star pupil in this important parable. This happens throughout Jesus’ teaching and preaching in the Gospels. It’s really a “reader beware” kind of thing. And so, when we truly look at Islamophobia today and how it is rampant in sectors of the Christian church and endorsed by religious public figures, I say the teaching of Jesus Christ needs to be heard again with he same force as in the original hearing with those first disciples.
A new piece that jumped out to me the last several months is the precursor to the famous parable about the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was taking a trip to Jerusalem he went through Samara. When the Samaritans wouldn’t receive Jesus and his followers (clearly there was bad blood between these groups…just so you know), James and John asked Jesus if they should “call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans and destroy them!” Yes. That’s right. Can you believe it? Read it for yourself in Luke 9:54.
They were wandering through enemy territory. Over and over again we read how the disciples were shocked and dismayed that Jesus would push the envelop with the religious enemy of the early followers of Jesus, who were initially mostly Jewish. This is not an anti-Jewish story. It’s a human story. How many times do we guard ill-will towards our tribal or religious other. We all do. Let’s be honest. And this is precisely where those who claim to follow Jesus must be converted! Jesus didn’t stand for that animus towards anybody who was “other”, let alone the religious other then. And he won’t tolerate it now. Period.
Enjoy the photos. By the way, Jesus sternly rebuked James and John, two of his close disciples for their Samaraphobia!
A Local Church Pastor
“Through personal storytelling, biblical preaching, and literally getting us out of the church and into a mosque, Andy walked alongside our church with the question, “Compelled by God’s love, what does it mean to love our Muslim neighbor?” Wise, gentle, and prophetic, Andy doesn’t just talk about peacemaking–he lives it.”Website
Lay Church Leader
“Andy spent a weekend at our church recently speaking about his bridge building relationships with Muslims. This approach resonates in contrast with so much media attention to extremists. It was a new message for a lot of our members, but they seemed willing to listen and be open because of Andy’s gentle and non-threatening presence. Now we can discuss this topic more freely and see our Muslim neighbors in a new light, building friendships as God leads.”
Professor of Reconciliation Studies
“We recognize you as an agent of change for reconciliation and an influential community leader. We’d like to invite you to influence the next generation of community leaders here at Seattle Pacific University.”
“Andy Larsen recently gave a presentation and engaged our congregation around the question, “Who is our neighbor?” His knowledge and experience as a bridge-builder and peacemaker was evident as he encouraged us to look outside our normal circles of friendships. Andy is well-suited for this ministry as he travels effortlessly between Muslim and Christian communities and invites us to do the same.” Website