The following post is an excerpt from Reconciliation Reconsidered, by Tanya Smith Brice. Dr. Brice has a passion for building racial unity in a difficult time and brings together several significant voices to speak about racial issues within Churches of Christ. This excerpt is from the chapter "Well Water", written by Dr. Jerry Taylor, professor at Abilene Christian University and a leader of these race discussions.
We have a water problem in America. We have a water problem in the church. There are thirsty and dehydrated people all around us. They are like the description given to Jesus in our text [from the story of the Samaritan woman at the well]: tired and depleted of strength. Although as Christians we see the depleted and dehydrated condition of our fellow citizens, far too often our racial codes, religious traditions, and political loyalties won’t allow us to respond compassionately to their legitimate thirst. They are the people who are just outside of our racial categories for which we feel we have no obligation to assist.
In the current narcissistic culture in the United States, not only has every individual seemed to have turned to her own way, it also seems as if every ethnic/racial group has turned inward to focus only on the needs of its members. As a nation, it seems as if we have lost the capacity to extend care and compassion to any people beyond our own racial and political categorizations. The only way Jesus would ever get water in the United States today is that he has to be “one of us.”
Christians must remember that Jesus comes to us “thirsty” in all colors and races. If we ignore his thirst on the basis his skin color, his theology, or his politics, we will face a very painful and pertinent question on the last day. At that time, he will say, “When you saw me thirsty, did you give me water to drink?” At that moment, we will have to admit that we missed seeing him because he did not look like us racially, religiously, culturally, educationally, economically, and politically. We will be surprised to know that Jesus came to us thirsty in the earthen form of being black, white, hispanic, asian, Jew, gentile, democrat, and republican. Our fixation of our hatred on “them” prevented us from seeing “him” in “them!”
When we deny addressing the thirst of people on the bases of their race, we are guilty of doing what the Samaritan woman did to Jesus. She “prejudged” Jesus’ attitude about her simply because she recognized him as a Jew. The woman’s fixation upon a racial and religious stereotype led her to draw a false conclusion about a Jew that was like no other Jew she had met. Jesus was a Jew that was unfettered by an exclusive and racist form of religion that looked down upon outsiders as animals or subhuman at best. Jesus was a Jew that was willing to drink behind Samaritans from their own well. The best way for Christians to start addressing America’s water problem is to start taking “water breaks” together. It is time for Christians to start sharing water across racial lines. Christians of all races need to start drinking water from the same water supply.
When we are all drinking from the same water supply we will have a vested interest in making sure that the water supply remains free of the lead poisons of racism, fear of demographic changes, political discrimination, economic exploitation, and religious bigotry.
To help your church engage in these difficult discussions, Reconciliation Reconsidered is on sale until August 15, 2016. Get your copy today.