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The Ministry of Healing in Christianity

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For Christians, the role of charity is first built on the injunctions of the Hebrew Bible. But in the New Testament, Jesus's parables and actions also speak to the morality of charitable sentiments. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, an expert in the law notes the Hebrew Bible injunction to "love thy neighbor as thyself" and asks Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus responds with the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. A man on the Jericho road is robbed, stripped, and lies half-dead. After others pass by him, a Samaritan—whose people were historic rivals of the Jews Jesus was talking to—takes pity on the unfortunate, binds his wounds, and transports him to an inn for care. Jesus asks, "Who do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?" The expert says, "The one who had mercy on him," and Jesus responds, "Go and do likewise." Through the parable, Jesus essentially tells his listeners: everyone is your neighbor, even the stranger by the side of the road. Those who show mercy obey God's law. Throughout Luke, Jesus breaks through class barriers, consorting with sinners, the ritually suspect, lower-class people, the "other." That's what got him into trouble all the time! He socialized with people who made others uncomfortable—sort of how we might be uncomfortable with people who live on the street today. That was his "ministry of healing"—caring for the poor and others. The parables, the stories of Jesus being among the poor and unfortunate are important. Narrating these stories, thinking about them, moves us. It gives us a way of thinking of "the others" as human beings. It's really easy for us to see such people as somehow not worthy of our respect. Telling these stories gives the poor the fullness they deserve. As a minister for many years, the concern I have is that, at Christmastime, shelters and other places end up with more than they can use but very little the rest of the year. And so I think there is a danger of unburdening our conscience at Christmas. I would like to see a more continual reminder of the need to care for others. When we do that, the gifts of Christmas locate themselves within a larger tradition.

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1 Sarah R = "In other words, on the words of the Old Testament, in particular the law handed down by God to Moses and the Israelites. Consider for example Deuteronomy 15:7-11“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.""
2 Sarah R = "This story would have been scandalous to Jesus' Jewish audience, in particular to the Pharisees or teachers of the law. The Pharisees had added many laws and traditions to the law handed down by God to Moses and among them included rules about separating oneself from those who were considered "unclean." The Samaritans, although of related ancestry to the Jews, had different practices and were considered to be sinners. Therefore the idea of a practicing Jew to stop and attend to a wounded Samaritan was shocking. It broke the rules of their society. It showed a higher way. "
3 Sarah R = "See the music video, "Jesus, Friend of Sinners.""