Racial Tension in the Days of Jesus

August 18, 2017 0 Comments

This past week we have witnessed, unfortunately, the awful effects of racial tension and political hatred. The events in Charlottesville, VA (only one hour from here) have permeated the news. Everyone (including the President) has condemned this violence in no uncertain terms. Somehow, we think this kind of prejudice and racial animosity is new. But if you know anything about the New Testament, you know that such bigotry was alive and well in the days of Jesus too.

It was the Samaritans who were hated by the Jews. The Samaritans were not pure-bred Jews, but a cross between Jews and non-Jews (a racial "mixture"). It was for this reason many Jews refused to pass through the towns of Samaria when travelling from Galilee in the north to Judea in the south. Instead of taking the direct, shorter route through the Samarian mountains, they would go east to the Lake Genneseret (Sea of Galilee), then south all along the Jordan river to Jericho, then west up the steep mountain road to Jerusalem. It took about twice as long to make such a trip, but they were so prejudiced against the Samaritans that they were willing to make this sacrifice of time and energy.

No wonder the woman at the well in John 4 was so startled when Jesus not only stopped there for a drink, but started to talk to her! "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman? For Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (John 4:9). Jesus did not buy into the politically correct bigotry and racial prejudice of His day, and even though He was a full-bred Jew, He made the Samaritans the "heroes" of many of His parables. Most notably was the parable of the "Good Samaritan" who took time to help a poor beaten, robbed traveler. Interestingly, the priest and the Levite passed by this poor guy unwilling to take the time to help him. But the Samaritan, a man who knew what it was like to be despised, stopped to help the victim out. All through the life of Jesus, He stuck up for the "down and outers", the social outcasts of society, those who were despised and hated. His love transcended racial, political, and social boundaries. Yes, He loved those that nobody else did.

Richard Seefried
Harrisonburg, VA
Richard Seefried has a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry, and is licensed & certified by the NCCA as a clinical pastoral counselor.