In a country like ours, our memories are wired to forget quickly. We are, in street speak, a “happening” country. As we speak, few of us remember what it was like to go through two and a half elections. There was a handshake and apologies. In spite of my cynicism towards the political class, I choose to think that there is hope for us. However, my hope is measured and placed beyond the political class. I say that because I remember the prolonged election period. I was there when they said we should pray for this country. You may have been there too. I heard them say that the effectual and fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. So, we prayed in tongues of men and in tongues of angels. We fasted for days. We hoped and we remain hopeful. We prayed that there would be no violence or deaths. We prayed for a smooth transition and a just election process.
Some of us said they knew God had spoken so they spoke. I stopped in my tracks when I heard those words, not because God cannot speak to people but because that has been used to support selfish, manipulative and out rightly evil actions. The spoken words became a post on social media. A spark was ignited. There were valid questions, measured responses and misplaced opinions. God became a stone to be hurled at the other side. The scriptures became a poisonous arsenal, fired at the perceived enemy whenever it suited us. Tribe and party trumped over love. Love was trampled over in an attempt to be on the “right” side of things. Confusion ensued. Did we hear Him right? They asked. A defense was mounted for “our side” of things. Those who could not take it were marked as the enemies of purpose, progress and the very Power of God. The church, the body of God, lay on the streets, bruised, confused and naked.
We always read the story of the Good Samaritan under the assumption that we are the Good Samaritans. I have often assumed that if I came across a man who is wounded on the streets, I would be quick to attend to him. I would take him to hospital. I would pay the hospital bill, no matter what it would cost me. I assume that the years of being taught the scriptures have had an effect on my callous heart. That the coldness of my heart has been thawed by This Love I profess. The Scriptures say that a priest walked past the wounded man and he found himself an alternative route. In Hebrew, the term kōhēn (priest) refers to an official who was set apart in order to carry out certain duties related to worship. They were mediators between God and the people. Peter, refers to the believers in the New Testament, as a royal priesthood, a chosen people and a special people to God (1 Peter 2:9).
The priest and I share a name and a role. We also a share a response. As we speak, there are internally displaced persons in this country. Women were raped. Homes were plundered and burnt to ashes. Precious lives were lost. It is not news. It happened in 2007, 2013 and in 2017. How many strangers have we left bleeding as we found ourselves an alternative route? How often have hidden behind our priestly garbs to avoid seeing the bruised man or woman, lying on the street? How often have we refused to see past our preferences, denomination, biases and tribal alliances?
Then, a Levite passed by and saw the man on the street (Luke 10:32). He saw him then went on with his journey. Look around you for a moment. What do you see? Do you see that terrified neighbour whose life will never be the same? Do you see yourself, posturing in prayer and denying your role in healing this land? Do you see the walls you have built to keep the “others” out? Do you see the powers and principalities at work?
A Samaritan passed by and he had mercy on the man. He took it upon himself to attend to him and nurse him back to health. Historically, Samaritans and Jews were like the proverbial oil and water. According to Jews, even their way of following God, was wrong. Jesus said that blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. Some of us danced on the graves of those who died tragically in one way or another during the election period. Life, we said, could only be valuable, if it was of our “kind”. The greatest lie in these shaky times is that we do not need one another. We are certain that we do not need the ones on other side (tribe, political party, denomination or religion). We are certain that those who are like “us” will meet our every need. The trappings of our lives deceive us further into thinking we are self-sufficient. Our certainty has stripped our curiosity. We do not want to wander beyond the imaginary lines we must toe lest we find human beings, made in His image and likeness.
We prayed for this country and its well-being but we forgot that a country is only as good as its people. A person is only as good as his heart. We lifted our hands in reverence of His Power but we shielded our hearts from His power. We repented for the sins of the nation and its fathers only to turn a blind eye to the logs in our own eyes. We raised our hands as the priests only to step back when God required a man who would welcome the stranger, nurse the wounded and love as He loves. We memorized the scriptures like the Levites then let grow stale in our hearts because it did not suit our political inclinations, our tribal alliances, our biases and preferences. Jesus, we said, can have everything, except that which we value most. We are here, a year after a turbulent time. Did the turbulence shake what’s unnecessary out of us or did it barely move us?
The election season revealed to me I am not a Good Samaritan. I do not know how to love past the lines. I am not a good listener particularly when my opinions are being challenged. My vision is blurry because of the layers upon layers of opinion-dressed-as-truth that have formed cataracts in my eyes. More than ever, I am cognizant of how counter cultural the invite to be a Christian (“mini Christ”) is less about belonging to a church or clique and more about being a beacon towards the Light. If the words of this Gospel are to come alive, then the Levite and the priest (after the old order) must die and make room for a holy priesthood (in the new order of priest). This kind of priesthood is not about piety and rites.
It is about deep seated transformation of the heart followed by love that challenges every fiber of my being by its kindness, faithfulness and authenticity. The stranger and the outcast find space in it just as the lady with a sassy mouth and lad with a tattooed body. This love does not respect lines because it is aligned by He who Loved the World that he gave His Son for it. This Love makes a way because He who first Loved us is the Way, the Truth and the Life.