Week 2 – Repentance: Changing my mind
“Repent” has been given a bum rap—the word “repent” doesn’t come from Latin roots (paenitere – to feel sorry). Repent has Greek roots and comes from metanoia—to change perspective, to change world view.
Where am I prejudiced?
Tough question. The story of the Good Samaritan (found in Luke 10:25-37) might be helpful. The story, told by Jesus to a lawyer in front of a crowd, uses a 3-person format that the Jewish audience would have recognized. A man was walking from Jerusalem to Jericho (through very dangerous territory, and alone) and he was set upon by thieves, who robbed him, beat him, and left him half dead. Along come two upright people of the temple who ignore him. The third person is a Samaritan. An outcast. Unclean. This person scoops up the half-dead man, bandages his wounds, takes him somewhere safe, and pays the bill for his care.
The crowd hearing the story, in typical Jewish style, would be trying to identify with one of the characters in the story. They obviously aren’t represented by the high-brow religious leaders, so they must be the “good guy”. That’s the way the story always works out. But Jesus throws them a curve. This time the “good guy” is an outcast. The only person left for the crowd to identify with is the half-dead guy in the road. He hasn’t got a choice about letting the Samaritan touch him. He is passive—and if he’s not helped by the Samaritan, he will die. So here is the question Jesus is asking:
Will you accept grace no matter who brings it? No matter whose hands God uses?
‘So what can be done about invisible prejudice? This raises another feature of our “body-intentionality,” that it is largely affected by our experience. How did my friend fight his fear of dogs? He held puppies. It is absolutely essential for building racial peace for all of us to intermingle our lives with those who are different from us. We must experience the humanity of the other through hospitality to teach ourselves to love. We cannot be content with affirmations of equality but no bodily action. The role of the Christian church in this is especially important. We must take seriously our responsibility to build diverse, hospitable communities that are capable of ministering reconciliation both on a Spiritual and social level. We are to be a city set on a hill, a City of God where there is one body, as well as one Lord, one faith, one baptism.’
Saint Ephraim’s Prayer at Midnight
O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not a spirit of sloth,
vain curiosity, lust for power and idle talk.
But give to me, your servant,
a spirit of soberness,
humility, patience and love.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own faults,
and not to condemn my brother;
for blessed are you to the ages of ages. Amen.
—Satin Ephraim the Syrian (305-373 C.E.) spent one part of his life as a teacher of theology and another part as an ascetic. From Every Eye Beholds You.