As I write this, I am in a hotel in Asia where I have had the opportunity to watch a bit of Barclays Premiere League football (soccer) from England. It seems as if it’s on television 24/7 even here. As a former college soccer player, I still love watching the “beautiful game” even though we don’t get much of it in the States. The passing and teamwork and excitement really are a thing of beauty, as the world’s best players perform in games that are followed passionately by people all over the globe. It really is a sight to behold.
As I watched, however, I noticed a message that kept coming up on the electronic message boards that border the pitch (the playing field). Repeatedly throughout the game, and in different games at different venues, this common theme declared, “Say No to Racism,” or “Football says no to racism,” or simply “No Racism.” There were a number of variations on the theme, but all carried the plea that people learn to respect the ethnic diversity that is an ever-increasing part of life in the United Kingdom. It is a worthy appeal.
In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus was confronted by a man who asked, “Who is my neighbor?” In the context, it is apparent that the man, a religious leader, was seeking justification to limit his responsibility to love others by excluding those who were not like himself. Jesus responded with the parable of the good Samaritan, lifting up as the hero the person believed to be ethnically inferior by the people of the day. Samaritans were despised as racially impure, but Jesus showed that the Samaritan had a better grasp on the kingdom principle of love than the religious man asking the question.
As Jesus expressed in this timeless parable, the only way to say no to racism is to stop asking, “Who is my neighbor? Where can I draw the line? Who can I exclude from love?” and to start asking, “To whom can I be a neighbor?” evidencing the love of Christ to anyone our Lord brings across our paths—regardless of racial differences. After all, the body of Christ is made up of people from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). For the child of God, this means that racial hatred and bigotry is not an option. So the question to us still today is, to whom am I willing to be a neighbor?
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain