Sunday, February 12, 2006
"Just who is my neighbor?" Luke 10:29
Twenty centuries after this question was asked of Jesus, it seems we still keep asking it. With wars raging all over the Middle East and with tensions within our country, we still don't get it.
Last summer, Crash came into theatres and was mostly ignored by mainstream American filmgoers. But thanks to the Academy Award nominations (and a successful DVD marketing campaign), this movie has re-entered the nation's conscienceness.
This is a good thing because Crash is a film brave enough to try and answer the question posed to Jesus in the Gospel of Luke: "Just who is my neighbor?" (10:29). Set in modern Los Angeles, the movie follows several characters, each of a different race or nationality, in their journey from fear to acceptance.
The quintessential story arc of this movie is a two-parter.
The first part involves a white racist police offer (played by Matt Dillon) who pulls over an African-American couple (Terrance Howard and Thandie Newton) for a traffic violation. During this scene, the officer sexually assults and harasses the woman in front of her husband, and then leaves them after they tearfully apologize to the officer for the violation.
The second part takes place a day later when the officer comes upon a car crash with a trapped driver on an open road with flames and spilled gasoline. When the officer discovers the driver is the same woman he assulted the previous night, she panics and refuses his help. But as the flames approach the car, he refuses to let go and risks his life to save her from death. As he carries her to safety, the two embrace.
This scene is what the Good Samaritan story must have sounded like to the man who asked Jesus, "Just who is my neighbor?"
Too often, we forget how scathing this story was to its audience to hear how a Samaritan could be the good guy. But to hear that the good guy in Crash is the white racist cop in our multi-cultural world today might be close to that feeling, and what Jesus meant by his famous parable.
The simple answer to this ancient question is "everyone."
Our neighbor, whom we are called not just to tolerate and accept, but to love and lay down our lives for (embodied in this film by that quintessential scene), is everyone we meet. And in our war-ravaged world, this even means those who we are fighting against in Iraq as well as those on the other side of the political or religious aisle.
What if, just what if, Jesus asks us, would we do if we truly saw everyone as our neighbor? We would be laying down our lives for those we hate instead of trying to kill them. We would be loving and accepting of all people, regardless of their creed or church, their color, their sexual preference, their political choices, or anything to seperate us from one another.