25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Dear Jerusalem Council,
I would like to talk to you about the road between here and Jericho. As you know, we've lamented about it for years. We' ve expected the people of Jericho (our cousins, siblings, parents, and neighbors) to do the work of improving the road. Frankly, that expectation should embarrass us. We've had the power and the privilege for years. We know they didn't and don't have the political capital or the fiscal ability to do the work we're discussing alone, but we keep saying it will change if they just listen, stop writing to us, and maybe make some of the improvements to Jericho that we've suggested to make it more like Jerusalem.
The violence has gotten out of hand. The ambushes, the murders, the extortions... villains, rogue soldiers, haters... the list goes on. I have heard many of you say that some bad actors does not mean action is required of us. Frankly, this is more than a few bad actors. It is the reality of the road itself. We have allowed the violence of the road, the rumor of the road, the threat of the road to expand beyond a means of travel. It is a specter of violence, pain, and fear that hangs over us and the people of Jericho and leaves no one untouched.
I know we have discussed this issue again and again and again. However, some of our priests say, "This kind of change takes time. We have to be patient." And we have heard certain Levites say, "If the people traveling the road did exactly what they were advised, they wouldn't get hurt or killed." We have turned our heads, wrung our hands, offered prayers, and seen the funeral processions.
And yet, the road REMAINS a place of terror and death.
How can we claim to be a city of light or, dare I say, of God if we do nothing about the road? How can we think ourselves better than the Romans, or anyone? Who dares to claim the favor of the Creator as we allow death and fear to run rampant on our watch?
What would Esther say? Judah Maccabee? Joshua and Caleb? Naomi? Gideon? What of our ancestor Jacob who, though fearful, still finally fell into his brother's embrace despite all that had been between them?
Do we actually want to do anything about the Jericho Road or does just talking about it after every death make us feel better about ourselves? We hear the pleas from Jericho. We seen the bodies piling in the wadi and in gehenna. We have heard of those who die- denied care or options that they could get in Jerusalem. Our inaction impacts not only trade, but the religious practice of our Jericho neighbors and family. Our refusal to change the situation of the road is causing people to feel separated from God, because we (also children of God) are failing to act in the way to which we have been called.
The change to the road will not happen overnight, but it must start right now. We must say no more. We must refuse to allow another attack, another death, another moment of fear. We must hear the grief and the pain and allow it to wash over us and move us in its tide to a place of action and purpose. We do this WITH the people of Jericho, WITH the residents of Jerusalem, WITH all our neighbors who wish to see this pain far behind us and the lessons learned carried with us.
So, what say you, Council? What say you, priests and Levites?
What say you, white (privileged) America?
For Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, may we change the Jericho Road of systemic racism in your name and in the name of so many others.