Racial Reconciliation & The Art Of Loving Our Neighbor

How do we process and respond to the tragic events of this past weekend in light of Jesus' commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself?"


Geno Olison

Lead Pastor, South Suburban Vineyard, Flossmoor, IL

[This article is part of our Diversity Resources Library, containing resources for pastors and congregations on the topics of Diversity, Racial Reconciliation, and the Multiethnic Church.]

 In the the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), Jesus paints a picture of what real Christian love looks like. It’s striking to me that when Jesus wants to teach us about Christian love, He does so by challenging our responses to those we see in pain and in need.

In looking at this story I see 5 things we can do to truly love the people in our lives that are dealing with pain.

5 Things We Can Do To Love Others In Pain

I’ve had to work to apply this to the pain I see in the lives of my family and friends. I also see how this may help those seeking to respond well to the people around them that are dealing with the pain of racial injustice.

Here are 5 steps to entering into the experience and the pain of others, that you can begin to apply today.

1. See

The first step is to really try to see the pain of others. You can’t help anyone you can’t see and you’ll never help to solve a problem if you won’t take a close look at it.

The Samaritan man had to first see the man in need in order to offer any meaningful assistance. The first two guys passed by the dying man lying there but chose not to engage.

This is easy to do when you encounter the pain and grief that injustice causes. You can choose to see/understand it or you can choose to look away.

2. Feel

When you really see the pain of the folks you love it should cause you to feel compassion. The Samaritan felt compassion for the dying man.

Compassion is when your heart moves closer to someone in pain. Compassion might cause you to picture yourself in that situation and imagine how painful it might be.

What’s more, compassion might even cause you to consider what you’d want someone else to do if you were in pain or in need. If you’re faced with the pain of the people you love and you feel no compassion, go back to step one.

You might not be seeing it right.

3. Move

As the parable continues, Jesus mentions that the Samaritan physically went over to the hurting man. Compassion moves your heart and emotions toward the person in pain.

When you allow yourself to sit in the brine of compassion, it’ll likely move YOU closer to the person and their pain. Jesus healed and engaged the broken not because He had something to prove, but because He was easily moved with compassion when he saw a need.

He didn’t just feel something; He acted and engaged the person and their pain in a way that was both appropriate and helpful. Compassion should move you to action.

4. Sacrifice

As the Samaritan engages this man, he does so by using his own resources: oil, wine, bandages, a donkey, time, energy and money. This shows that you can’t really do this right without it costing you something.

Real love is sacrificial and it actively challenges us to part with our resources. In other words, we must be willing to part with something valuable in order to really help.

As it relates to the matters of racial injustice, maybe sacrifice means you use your power and privilege to help the powerless and voiceless.

Maybe it means you use your voice to speak up and out against injustice and bigotry. Maybe you take a stand in solidarity when you’ve got a lot to lose.

It might mean offering comfort or emotional resources when it makes sense to do so. Either way, if love isn’t costing you something, you might not be doing it right.

5. Commit (to ongoing care)

One of the most powerful parts of the parable is that the Samaritan, after finding the beaten man on the side of the road, tends to him, nurses his wounds, and transports him to an inn for the night.

In the morning he hands the innkeeper some money and says “Give this man whatever he needs and put it on my tab. I’ll pay it when I come back this way.” What he realized is that even his really generous and super-sacrificial actions had not completely solved this man’s problem.

His condition was bad. There was more care needed and there were more sacrifices to be made.

In opening a tab for this stranger, he committed himself to the ongoing care of the hurting man. He made a long-term commitment. When it comes to the work of reconciliation/healing and the seeing, feeling, moving toward, and sacrificing for the healing of the pain of others, often times there’s more than one burst of action and aid needed to really do the job.

Those that really wish to engage this should do so knowing that there’s usually more to really helping and healing than just a one-time burst. It often takes a lasting commitment to help until the breakthrough comes.

Can We See The Gospel In This?

When I put this all together, I can’t help but see the Gospel in this. Jesus SAW us in our mess and pain. He FELT compassion. He was MOVED by that same compassion and SACRIFICED His life for us. He COMMITTED Himself to our ongoing care with the promises that He’ll never leave us.

He challenges us to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34). Jesus is asking us to do for others what He’s done for us. This means we should work to SEE, FEEL, MOVE, SACRIFICE, and COMMIT to helping those we love.”

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Geno Olison is the lead pastor of the South Suburban Vineyard, a multiethnic church in the south suburbs of Chicago. He is a gifted leader and communicator who has devoted his life to church planting and cross-cultural ministry, and is passionate about helping people build cross-cultural relationships through the local church.

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[This article is part of our Diversity Resources Library, containing resources for pastors and congregations on the topics of Diversity, Racial Reconciliation, and the Multiethnic Church.]