Flying From New York

gThere was once a man flying from New York to Omaha. In the airport garage he was attacked by a gang. They took his laptop, his wallet and his cell phone, beat him up, and ran away, leaving him bleeding out and near death.

By the providence of God, a priest had just parked near the man and was getting out of his car to catch his flight. But when the priest saw the bloody man, he quickly walked to the other side of his car so as not to be seen by him. Then by chance, a youth pastor showed up; but he also avoided the injured man, running past him to catch his flight.

Then a few minutes later, a gay man, traveling home to his husband after a business trip, parked in the open spot near the dying man. As soon as he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He called 911 and reported the incident. Knowing he had a first aid kit in his car, the man quickly went about stopping the bleeding with the help of the 911 operator– disinfecting and bandaging the man’s wounds. When he learned the ambulance would take nearly 30 minutes to get to the airport garage and that the dying man did not have that much time, the gay man told the 911 operator he would drive the man to the hospital on the airport campus. So he helped the bleeding man into his car, and drove him to the nearest hospital. The gay man stayed to make sure the paperwork was filled out and the man was taken care of, since the man’s identification had been stolen with his wallet. In the evening, the gay man called his husband and told him the situation. They both agreed he should stay all night and make sure the man was ok in the morning. In the morning he took out some cash and a credit card, and gave them to the hostpital, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my card.”

“What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

[This is how Jesus’ words sound to me in 2015]

24 comments

  1. Joe Schafer

    If any Christian is offended by this, I would love to hear why.

    The parable of Jesus, spoken in the midst of religious and culture wars, probably sounded a lot like this to people in his audience.

    • I have to confess that my initial response was: You smart cheeky little fellow! But you’re right. We “holy Christians” (especially yours truly) should look in the mirror far more often than pointing fingers and throwing stones.

  2. Joe Schafer

    My suggestion for group Bible study leaders: The next time you are supposed to lead a study of Luke 10:25-37, throw away your question sheets and hand out copies of this. I’m dead serious about this. The discussion will get very real, very fast. It will reveal whether the people in your group are living in reality or walking around in a dream. (see the last article by forests, http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/18/a-short-comment-on-brainwashing/ )

    • Sounds like a brilliant suggestion. But then again, everything on this website has “no face.” (Sorry for the inside joke.)

  3. Thanks, Brian. This is a great example of contextualization of a bible passage; it’s the kind that will evoke visceral reactions in certain people, which was Jesus’ original intent when using the example of the Samaritan. I remember when I taught this passage, I did something similar and said insert here whichever type of person you utterly despise or is in some way automatically revolting. It’s very convicting because you immediately realize how unloving, intolerant and un-Christlike you are to certain people even though you profess to be a Christian. It’s a great way to highlight the magnanimity and inclusiveness of Jesus.

  4. Sometimes I feel like I understand Paul the Apostle who tried to convince the Jews that the Gentiles had the same Spirit of Jesus.

    Gender and sexual minorities are displaying repentance unto life. Case in point: standing in solidarity

  5. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    I’m trying to have more discussions with people about understanding gay people, orientation, and a place in the church. It’s so very difficult. A few things I’ve found from many church-goers and some pastors: 1) it’s “clearly written” that it’s wrong in the Bible; 2) being gay is a choice just like stealing, and just like stealing gays should repent; 3) coming to Christ means either celibacy or marrying a woman; 4) we have to follow God’s “design” and what is natural for humans (male and female marriages and sexual relations only).

    Much to write about it, but two take aways which I think relate to this excellent modernized version you’ve written Brian, are: 1) if all of the above was so clear in the Bible, why does the fruit from the church look so terrible? The suicides, the feelings of isolation and being hated and not welcomed, rejecting going to church because of the assumption that the church has already rejected them. The church is so clear in it’s interpretation of Scripture but the fruit is damaging. Maybe we can start by accepting that, by the fruit shown, our current interpretation isn’t so “clear” and it’s time to re-evaluate the meaning of the very NT verses used to outright condemn all gays; 2) many things are now “allowed” although not originally “designed by God,” such as eating meat!

    This is such a good story to bridge to talking about seeing people as people. Even Jesus was called a Samaritan by those who didn’t accept him (John 8:48). In trying to talk about understanding being gay as an orientation, I was asked, “Do you have those feelings too?” :(

  6. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    this also reminded me of “the bystander effect,” as evidenced in this article: http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2009/10/29/should-people-who-witness-a-crime-face-jail-for-failing-to-report-it/

  7. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    Dear Brian, Joe and others, it is daunting to accept Joe’s open challenge and to reveal that I am offended and to make it known why. I am offended because the New Testament calls the practice of homosexual behavior an offense. Yes homosexuals are not any more offenders than adulterers and even thieves, greedy, drunkards and slanderers. The Bible says that for any of these offenses the offender will not inherit the kingdom of God. Problem is that in Jesus’ teaching lustfully looking at a woman is same as adultery, anger is same as murder, desire to possess someone else property is same as stealing. I am not a homosexual, but under this standard I do not think me and many, many others will have a chance to enter the kingdom of God, but for the grace of God alone I hope and believe that I will make it. However, I believe that being born again and entering the kingdom is entirely the grace of God, but to remain in the kingdom and become a mature citizen of that kingdom is a cooperation with the grace of God. Perhaps that is why we see many physically old but spiritually baby Christians and also physically young and spiritually mature Christians. I think this issue of “cooperation” with the grace of God or the Holy Spirit is to do with repenting, overcoming and moving forward and not to stay where I was when I was born into the kingdom, nor where I was yesterday. My daily struggle is to look at women and still not commit adultery in my heart. Am I victorious everyday. Not really. Does God forgive me when I fail. Yes He does. Does He condemn me? No. Does he condone my sin. Absolutely not. Does God love me when I fail. Yes, He does. But does God enjoy me committing sin. I do not think so. My point is God accepts homosexual offenders just as he accepts me an adulterer. And just as God does not enjoy me continuing to be an adulterer, so God does not enjoy someone continuing to be a homosexual, because both are offenses in His eyes. Both are potentially dangerous to throw the offender out of the kingdom if not overcome by cooperating with the grace of God.

    Regarding religious and culture wars, I do not subscribe to any religion anymore, even “Christianity” for that matter. More people have been killed in the name of religion than the world wars combined. Jesus did not come to establish a religion. He invited people to a kingdom. We have lost the message of the kingdom. We are trying to build up a religion. Our missions do not focus on maturing the citizens. We are seeking members. God’s original intent was and still is not to overpopulate heaven by bringing people from the earth, but to bring the culture of heaven into the earth. And I am sure there are no practicing homosexuals in heaven and there will be no homosexuals in the Kingdom of God on the earth, just as there will be no adulterers nor liars anymore.

    The use of phrase like “husband of the gay man” can be a good attempt at “contextualization” looking at the religious and culture wars, but in the context of the kingdom such are offensive. I have to admit that by reading the article I did not understand the purpose of it until the issue of contextualization raised in follow up comments. In my opinion, adding a few verses at the beginning of the parable that Brian left out and how Jesus turned the question of “Who is my neighbor?” into “Whose neighbor am I?” would have made the context of the parable clearer. In the end I say that I am in favor of accepting homosexuals into our homes and fellowship and teach and being taught, but I am not in favor of approving the persistent behavior. With all due respect to my homosexual brothers and sisters who are fellow citizens and to those who are yet to be, I love and respect you and like the wounded passenger of the flight from New York to Omaha I need you and will be willing to be ministered and blessed by you. But I do not approve the homosexual agenda for the sake of contextualization in the midst of religious and culture wars, just as I would not approve my own adulterous behavior, nor divorce nor abortion for the sake of pressures and demands of the time we are in.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank you for your courageous response. I will think about this some more and perhaps may say more later. There are quite a few statements that you make here that I strongly agree with. In fact, I agree with a whole lot of what you wrote. But just a few points to clarify what is happening in the parable.

      * When Jesus placed a Samaritan in the position of a hero in his parable, he wasn’t giving a blanket stamp of approval to the Samaritan’s religious doctrines or his lifestyle or anything else about him. He was commending the Samaritan’s love of neighbor and contrasting that with the lack of love shown by the Jews who were more doctrinally correct and were (at least outwardly) more observant of biblical laws.

      * Brian is a strong supporter of homosexual rights. But that wasn’t the point of this parable. Brian’s point, I think, was the same as Jesus’ point. He wants to make us think very seriously about the question, “And who is my neighbor?”

      Thanks again. I appreciate your response a great deal.

    • Thanks for sharing your honest words, Gajanan. I personally need to temper several of your statements against Jesus’ sermon on the mount, such as where He equates hateful name-calling with actual murder. I would ask, if murderers and adulterers are excluded from the kingdom (now and in heaven), then how did/will David, Moses and Paul get in?

      I wrote this in response to my feelings after reading about a Michigan doctor refusing treatment to a lesbian’s baby. She claimed to have “prayed about it”.

      My point is Jesus’ point: Who is your neighbor? We are not demanded to accept everyone’s lifestyle or doctrine, but we are demanded by love to treat those in need fairly and honestly.

      There is a growing trend in America that is very Sodom-like: refusing hospitality and service to the needy due to doctrinal disagreements. Sodom was destroyed for that very thing, according to Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

  8. So to put this in another context, what if the person we pass by is a ubf Korean missionary? I completely disagree with their lifestyle and see what they do as an offense to God. Would I see them as my neighbor and help them in the excessively generous manner Jesus describes in His story? I admit this would be very difficult. But I am commanded by love to do so.

    What if the person were your own daughter? Well of course (most of us) would instantly do what Jesus described.

    And I think that is the point: to be human we need to love strangers and if we claim to be at all Christ-like, we must love strangers.

    • To put it another way, Jesus also calls us to love and help our enemies recognizing that as humans we are all participating in this project of becoming more human together. For a Samaritan to help a Jew would be a shock because Samaritans were essentially demonized for centuries by Jews due to their aberrant, bastardized theology. I heard a story (not sure if it’s true) that rabbis in Jesus’ time would say that if you saw a gentile or Samaritan woman going into labor in the street and she had no one else to help her but you, you should simply pass by because that would ensure that the woman and child would most likely die and therefore the number of gentiles in the world would be reduced. Shockingly brutal but this actually echoes the sentiments of some people in our modern times. The point is that the mercy which the Samaritan shows reveals that it is more fitting, perhaps even more human, to love our enemies rather than allow a wall of hostility to forever separate certain cultural/ethnic/religious/ideological groups. And if the other party is not willing to grow in their humanity, that is, they still want to hold onto their hatred, I think that you still have an obligation, to yourself and for the sake of your own well-being, to continue to grow as a healthy individual.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, if you happen to meet a Korean missionary, you can show him spiritual love which is the best kind of love by teaching him the Bible 1:1. Use this material for Lesson 1. Then you can report that you have one sheep.

  9. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    Joe and Brian, thanks for the clarifications. I am glad and thankful that we strongly agree on many ideas related to homosexuality and Christian faith. Perhaps I misjudged Brian’s intention in writing this article as advocating the homosexual agenda, but I am glad that I could express my views on such a burning and sensitive issue in public. Definitely my views are not perfect, and I will be happy to learn from you all and form a better theology on this issue.

    I am sad that a doctor refused to treat the daughter of a lesbian couple and justified her refusal in a religious way. That is what religion truly is. I have not read the story, but generalizing the doctor’s wrongly perceived conviction as the view point of every Christian will not be right. There is nothing more moral than saving a life or giving treatment to a patient. On the other hand when I hear stories like suing pastors for not conducting homosexual marriage or Christian businessman taken to court for not putting two men or two women figure on the wedding cake, I am saddened too. Restoring the rights of an oppressed minority is a noble thing, but for that violating others’ freedom to accept or refuse based on their conviction also not right. Who really is a minority is a difficult question in itself. All said and done, saving life is definitely above moral convictions, and Jesus constantly violated moral convictions of people around him for the sake of saving lives. However, when Jesus touched any person’s life that person did not remain the same, but got transformed in his or her conduct and became a better person than the moral standards of his time demanded.

    Regarding loving and caring for Korean missionaries, oh how I wish I had a chance. My words are often harsh on this blog and otherwise, but I deeply love and want to help. The gay Samaritan in your parable could not have helped the wounded Jewish passenger, as long as the wounded man had the choice to refuse the help. I think I have so much to give to ubf, even to Korean missionaries, but I am waiting for the moment when they will have no choice but to receive my help  . Especially I would love to help DK and JH . And I am praying for such an opportunity by holding on to Mal 4:5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Gajanan, thanks again for your gracious words and humble attitude.

      Brian has been taking strong stands on certain issues related to homosexuality. My views are somewhat different from Brian’s, but I am not taking strong public stands on some of these things right now. Before I do, there is much that I need to learn about human sexuality and how it relates to the gospel, the character of God and what love is really about.

      Here is where I am right now.

      I believe that Genesis chapter 2 has something important to teach us about God’s designs for sexual relationship. Jesus certainly thought so. A good case can be made that a lifelong, committed monogamous relationship between a man and a woman is a biblical norm. But it is also evident that many important people in God’s history did not follow that norm, and God seems curiously unconcerned about it. For example, the patriarch Jacob is the namesake of the nation of Israel. In Hebrews 11 he is listed twice among the righteous heroes of faith. Is he in heaven? I guess so. But as far as I can tell, Jacob never repented of his polygamous lifestyle, and God never challenged him on that issue. (In his context, I’m not even sure what that repentance would mean.) Many Christians will say that it is absolutely essential to marry someone who shares your faith. Marrying an unbeliever is considered to be seriously wrong. Maybe it is wrong. But many heroes in the Bible had interfaith marriages. Moses married the daughter of the priest of Midian, and Joseph also married the daughter of a pagan priest. There is no indication that either of these women first converted to their husbands’ faith, and God never seems to challenge them on that issue. Hannah (the mother of Samuel) was in a polygamous marriage, and God never told her to repent of that, and her husband is also portrayed as a good man. The biblical pictures of marriage are not easy to navigate. Until I have a better grasp of what is going on here, I’m going to refrain from taking strong positions on some of these things.

      One thing I do see in the Bible: God seems willing to meet people as they are, wherever they are, and he wants to intervene in their own life-contexts. Sometimes God’s designs for people involve a radical change in their sexual expression and relationships. But sometimes God’s priorities for them seem to lie elsewhere.

  10. After reading this post, a friend asked me, “What if you replace the homosexual man returning to his husband with Osama bin Ladin?”

    I could add replacing the gay man with either a pimp or sex trafficker on his way to his secret brothel, or to a pedophile on his way to meeting some preteen boys and girls, but stopping to be this wonderful good Samaritan.

    • Joe Schafer

      Interesting question. There are colorful historical examples of figures who did truly horrible things showing tenderness to some people while they treated others with great cruelty. For example, the commander of a Nazi concentration camp who loved his own children and acted as an exemplary father even as he tortured and killed thousands of Jews.

      A less extreme example would be the founder of UBF, who seemed to show real love and tenderness toward some people while he was treating others with indifference or cruelty.

      People who do that are compartmentalizing. They are able to classify fellow human beings into two categories: those who are worthy of their love and attention, and those who are dirty dogs who deserve no mercy. People who do that are unbalanced, unhealthy, seriously broken. The whole point of Jesus’ parable is to help us to overcome that kind of tribalistic dualism / compartmentalizing behavior toward our fellow human beings. So Jesus wouldn’t have cast such a person into the role of good Samaritan. If he did, it would undermine the whole point of the story.

    • If the man was Hitler, I think Jesus’ point is the same. But we also should be careful not to extrapolate a parable too far. If we take this parable too far out of context we can get very lost.

  11. As Joe said, yes I espouse a full-rights, full-inclusion, full-blessing stance toward not just gender and sexual minorities, but toward women and toward any human being I encounter. The gay debates have challenged and changed my concept of repentance. I discovered that I held to the typical “deathbed gospel” that is prevalent in Western Christianity. I think now that this is no gospel at all. You will die on your deathbed just as much a sinner as today. The difference the cross makes? The difference is in how and who we loved. I’m done with any expression of Christianity that is about sin management or sin-centric. Such a religion is nothing more than what every generation has tried (and failed) to do–keep yourself clean.

    I am writing three affirming theology books to express my journey through the gay debates and to share thoughts I am learning through Matthew Vines’ Reformation Project Cohort, which ends in a 4 day conference in Washington D.C. My journey started as “neutral” toward LGBTQA+ people. As soon as I questioned things, I was condemned to hell by fellow Christians. I didn’t mind though since ubf had already seen me as Satan’s agent :)

    My three books tell the journey God has lead me on in Scripture–the journey from condemnation to hatred to tolerance to acceptance and finally to celebration. Same-sex marriage is not the problem, but one of the solutions to the debate.

    Here is a quote from the first book which is already published:

    “The gay debate has become the defining element of my generation’s Christianity. Has there ever been a more explosive topic for the church to deal with? LGBTQA people have been treated as sub-human animals at worst or strange, broken humans at best. They have been marginalized and explicitly forbidden from marrying in the church. And so legions of people have been driven away from churches, turned off by the hatred, the appeasement or the double standards. Those who remain at the churches are often polarized and divided.

    Some see this situation with dire alarm, depicting gays in the church as the sure sign of an end-times apocalypse. Some see the situation as a reason to reject historical Christianity all together. Others simply lament at the moral losses suffered by Christendom. Others want to withdraw from the world, splitting the marriage ceremony between a church blessing and a state certificate, hoping to offer a compromise solution in order to protect the sanctity of Christian marriage. And still others offer a hand of welcome to the LGBTQA community while holding a quiver full of biblical arrows behind their back with the other hand. At best, we as a church seem to be at a loss as to how to move forward in a way that respects Scripture, stays connected with Tradition and pleases the Holy Spirit—all while staying true to the gospel Jesus preached and without causing harm to people.

    My contention is that the church can and should be equipped to do all of these, and that the way forward will come from LGBTQA bible scholars and guides. In contrast to the bleak outlook that often shrouds the church, I see a vastly different picture—one that is exceedingly joyful, hopeful and entirely Christian. The church needs to move the gay debate beyond marriage, beyond fear and beyond gender. And the time is now to speak with the kindness of a lamb and to take action with the courage of a lion.”

    • Joe Schafer

      “I’m done with any expression of Christianity that is about sin management or sin-centric. Such a religion is nothing more than what every generation has tried (and failed) to do–keep yourself clean. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/19/flying-from-new-york/#more-8878

      I share that sentiment with Brian, but I would say it differently. I believe that sin and death are the problems that Jesus came to address. But I find the understanding of sin that is common in today’s churches (sin = breaking God’s commandments) to be inadequate. Like Brian, I think it leads to a message of sin management that is a distortion and reduction of what the apostles and early church proclaimed. It reduces the gospel to something like this: “We all broke the rules, so Jesus came and died for our sins, so now let’s accept Jesus and get back to obeying those rules and God will then be ruling over us.” That message uses the name of Jesus, but its content is much more like Islam than historic, Trinitarian Christianity. (The word Islam literally means “submission.”) That message could be called “Chrislam.”

  12. “I’m done with any expression of Christianity that is about sin management or sin-centric.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/02/19/flying-from-new-york/#comment-16600

    I fully resonate with Brian and Joe as well. Communicating Christianity as “repent of sin and obey God” is doomed to failure. It invariably leads to two results:

    (1) it produces guilt-ridden despondent Christians who feel worthless and useless because they can’t overcome sin. But even worse is that

    (2) it produces Pharisees who are smug and who think so highly of themselves because they are so much better than the people in (1)! (Lk 18:9-14)

    The church is sadly often filled with (2), which is honestly the most despicable expression of Christianity, which Jesus repeatedly called out and denounced throughout the four gospels.

  13. “The story is not hypothetical, but something that you actually experienced.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/08/the-value-of-acceptance/#comment-16652

    BINGO! Joe gets the prize :) I did actually experience the welcoming, healing interaction of LGBTQA people after being “left for dead” by ubf, though I did not literally get beat up by a gang in an airport….

  14. When Paul welcomed the Gentiles into the church, there was no biblical precedence for accepting people who were not circumcised into the faith. It was the evidence of the Spirit’s work among Gentiles that won people over.