MOMENTS WITH THE MINISTER: Who is my neighbor?

By Frank Drenner
Special to the Herald Democrat

This week’s Sherman ISD Board of Trustees was one I will remember for some time. I was invited to represent my congregation as it was recognized for its commitment to local schools. But I also knew many members of the church, including two students, were attending the meeting to call for a mask mandate for Sherman ISD. I was very proud to hear passionate, heartfelt advocates for the well being of young people in our area. The Trustees voted to require masking in Sherman schools through the end of October and will reassess the situation again at that time.

I am very thankful for the administration for taking this stance. I am sure each of them faced pressure from people with all kinds of opinions; although no one’s voice is louder than a concerned parent when their child is at risk. I was very impressed at the civility of everyone present at the meeting; other school board meetings across the country discussing masking in schools have been disrupted with shouting and intimidation. I kept thinking of Dr Martin Luther King’s commentary on the well known story of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus told this parable during a discussion about the meaning of being a neighbor. A man traveled through a dangerous part of the country. He was attacked, robbed, and left for dead. Three others saw him in need. Two passed on the other side of the road, not wanting to get involved. The third, a Samaritan, bound the man’s wounds, brought him to a hotel, and paid for his stay and treatment. In thinking about this story, Dr King said this: the first two men thought to themselves, “What happens to me if I help?” The other man thought, “What happens to him if I do not help?” The decision the Board made the other night was like the Samaritan in the story. Their decision to act came down to this: “What happens to our students, teachers, and staff if we have the ability to help them and do not?”

The same thinking should apply to refugees fleeing Afghanistan. Thousands of people are leaving their homeland or face repercussions from a violent government for helping the American/allied war effort there the last two decades. Many will settle in the USA. Immediately, political commentators began spreading fear and distrust. Again, the issue is: we see a need. What are we going to do about it? We may be tempted to worry about ourselves, but scripture is very clear about this:

  • You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:19
  • The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. Psalm146:9
  • I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35
  • Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. Matthew 25:40
  • You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Romans 12:13
  • Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:1-3

The question of, “Who is my neighbor?” is an ancient one, and although we have a mountain of scriptures to address the answer, often we are as reluctant to justify our inaction as the one who asked Jesus the question. When we face a great need, may we respond with the heart of God, taking the necessary actions to protect the vulnerable, welcome the stranger, and ensure the wellbeing of all.

Frank Drenner

Frank Drenner was ordained in 1998 and has served as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Sherman since July 2016. He is married to Christy, and together they have three sons. Find more from Drenner at http://www.pastorfrankdrenner.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.