By PASTOR BRIAN CRAWFORD
What being a good Samaritan really means
Mission Mississippi recently designated the month of October as Living Reconciled Month. The designation is based on Romans 5:9-11, which concludes as follows:
“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
As people reconciled to God the Father through Christ, our natural outworking should be to always pursue opportunities to live out that reconciliation with one another.
Recently, Mission Mississippi has hosted and/or inspired a myriad of events that I’ve been fortunate to participate in. The annual conference in September featured guests taking part in an extended conversation on racial reconciliation. A few weeks ago, the Vicksburg chapter brought local churches together for their annual Racial Harmony picnic. However, it was the event that transpired the day after that left an indelible imprint.
The very next day, City Light (the church that I have the privilege of pastoring) and Crossway churches of Vicksburg came together for a joint worship gathering. This may not seem outside the norm, but two moments set this gathering apart from others.
Weeks before the gathering, through prayer and conversation, Pastor TJ Tennison and I made the decision to preach a “tagteam” sermon of sorts, with each of us emphasizing a vital biblical truth required in the ongoing effort for unity in the body of Christ.
Pastor Tennison opened the sermon with a word from Luke 10, the parable of the good Samaritan. He called attention to the man who was assaulted by robbers and left for dead on the side of the road; the religious who walked past the wounded man in fear that their own safety and comfort might be at risk; and finally, the Samaritan who stopped and tended to the man with scandalous compassion and empathy.
The true scandal resides not in the actions of the Samaritan but in the ethnicity. The Jews and Samaritans had a centuries-old bitter rivalry and never would have been seen as people capable of serving one another — and yet here was the Samaritan giving a true definition of neighboring by reaching across cultural, ethnic and racial lines to show mercy to the one in need.
To conclude the sermon, I tied Pastor TJ’s call to radical mercy across racial lines with an appeal to embrace the full identity purchased by Jesus Christ with His own blood: the identity of family! In Mark 3, as Jesus’ brothers and mother are searching for Him, He makes it clear whom He considers His true family to be:
“…looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Our pursuit of living reconciled across ethnic and cultural lines is not only intended to produce the kind of mercy toward each other that we see on display for us in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. The unity we pursue also bears witness to the truth that Jesus’ death purchased more than individuals for His eternal glory: It purchased a family.
To conclude our joint worship gathering, TJ and I modeled one of the most important elements in racial reconciliation: dialogue. With no prepared answers, we sat on stage together and, before a watching audience, simply talked. TJ asked me about my experience with racism, the impact it’s had on family and the hope I have for the church being an answer to this sin that has longed plagued our nation. Our dialogue was honest but never harsh, unpolished but welcomed with grace, allowing for disagreement and most importantly informed by the gospel that we both hold dear.
These conversations are needed not just on stages; they are needed at tables. My prayer is that, more and more, we will see them taking place.
These moments are what make Mission Mississippi special. It is a ministry that takes our Lord’s gospel as not just a call to reconcile vertically with Him but a call to reconcile horizontally with each other. It is in these efforts that the full picture of reconciliation is on display and, most importantly, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Brian Crawford is a husband, father of two boys, and a bi-vocational lead pastor of the recently launched City Light Church in Vicksburg. Brian and his wife, Candi, are natives and longtime residents of Vicksburg and have a passion to share the love and gospel of Jesus Christ with the city they hold dear.