Social Justice: Restoring dignity, compassion for all God’s people
By DeKarlos Blackmon
When extending Negro History Week into Black History Month, President Gerald Ford unequivocally stated, “Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.” And so, in 2017, it is most appropriate that we remember and consider not only the lives and work of those black citizens about whom President Ford referred, but also the lives and work of every immigrant, every human person, in our land.
Love of God and love of neighbor, the two-fold rule laid down by Christ, is a deep-seated, guiding principle that must govern the conduct of our lives every day. More and more it seems that secularism and politics are attempting to compete with our holiness through broadcast news, social media and even the people with whom we work and pray daily and weekly. Amid all that is transpiring in our nation and in our communities, as the dignity of and compassion for the human person are being compromised by some of us “church-going folks,” we must ask ourselves: How are we expressing our love of God, and how are we putting our love of neighbor into practice?
The well-known parable of the Good Samaritan presents for our daily lives the succinct, but complete, depiction of true discipleship in terms of love of God and love of neighbor. The parable is introduced by a scholar of the law who asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asks the scholar about what is written in the law, the scholar replies by quoting a combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, stating, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus simply replies, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” (Lk 10:28).
The scholar goes on to ask Jesus what constitutes the identity of neighbor because “neighbor” is a fellow Israelite in Leviticus. Jesus, not to be outdone, begins to tell the parable to clarify and explain the preeminence of love over legalism. In the parable, while a priest and a Levite passed the man who had fallen victim to robbers, it was the Samaritan traveler — a person whose Judaism was suspect — who cared for the victim. When Jesus asked the scholar who of the three was neighbor to the victim, the scholar lawyer answered that it was the one who treated the robbers’ victim with mercy (Lk 10:36-37).
As wrangling continues over immigration and border control, let us never forget that Jesus reminds us through the parable of the Good Samaritan of our role to be a vivid example of the fulfillment of the love commandment. The notion of “neighbor” is not merely a matter of blood bonds or nationality or religious communion. Everyone is our neighbor. As baptized members of Christ’s faithful, we must be serious about the challenge we have been given to “welcome the stranger” (Dt 10:19; Lv 19:34; Hb 13:1; Col 3:11; and Mt 25:35).
May the Christian attitudes we demonstrate toward others become how people see us treat our neighbors. In fulfilling that two-fold rule, the deep-seated guiding principle of love of God and love of neighbor, which should govern the conduct of our lives every day, may we become the beacons of hope, mercy and compassion for all God’s people. May we continue to live and work for the well-being of all God’s children through our great works of charity which help to bring about the kingdom of God in our midst. May the Gospel message continue to come alive through each of us!