The term “good Samaritan” is a common expression in our culture, meaning someone who exhibits surprising kindness towards a stranger. The term itself originates from Jesus’ parable in Luke 10 where a Samaritan man did just that when he saw a man in need on the side of the road. Even in our increasingly secular culture, we’ve named laws after this character. To Jesus’ original audience though, the terms “good” and “Samaritan” weren’t paired together so readily.
To the original hearers of this parable, a Samaritan hero was a shock. Samaritans weren’t true followers of God, like the priest or the Levite who passed over the injured man on the road. Ethnic differences separated Samaritans and Jews, creating hostility and prejudice. Prejudice quickly grew into an “us vs them” mentality. In response, Jesus made sure his audience knew that these differences weren’t excuses to permit unkindness. ‘Neighbor’ became a verb as Jesus told them to emulate the behavior of the one they had looked down on an “otherized.”
In our current age that increasingly “otherizes” groups different than themselves—Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, or homosexuals—Jesus reminds us that the person who you consider least like yourself, he or she is your neighbor to be loved in the same way you’d want to be loved.
If you’re a parent, you’re teaching the next generation how to view and how to treat others. As much as you might like to avoid the difficult topics of racism and prejudice, they won’t go away if we choose not to talk about them. Prepare for an honest conversation with your kids by first processing through these questions honestly. The questions below were originally featured on Parent Cue, a division of Orange which creates resources our kids ministry utilizes.
1 // HOW ARE YOU PROCESSING YOUR FEELINGS?
In order to have honest conversations with our kids, we need to be honest with ourselves. Check your heart and your thoughts. Be sure to take a step back and identify how you might need to change in your prejudices and in your interactions with others. Reflect on what it really means to love those whom God loves, and unrelentingly pursue forgiveness and reconciliation. Your kids will get many of their cues from observing your response. Yes, they’re really watching and listening. Are your reactions and frustrations to what is happening to betray any subtle biases?
2 // DO YOU CELEBRATE DIVERSITY?
Some parents may be tempted to try to teach their kids to be blind to color, to shy away from acknowledging differences or just ignore them altogether. But the truth is that we are all very different in the way God made us—in our skin color, in our genetic makeup, and in our culture. And that’s something to be celebrated, not ignored. Do you model the belief with your words and actions that God made each of us unique and beautiful even in our differences? Do you demonstrate respect and honor towards those you disagree with? How diverse is your circle of friends and the people you associate with? How can you widen that circle for your family?
3 // ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT RACISM?
Racism is a difficult and sensitive topic, but it does exist, often in the form of subtle comments and prejudice, but sometimes it’s outright hatred and violence. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. So talk about the issues with others outside your circle and with people of different backgrounds. Discover the truth from various outlets and seek to understand other perspectives. When you find the right words that honestly and respectfully express how you think and feel, choose which words you might share with your kids.
Then talk to your kids about prejudice and racism so you can equip them with the values and the words they will need to respect, celebrate, and stand up for those who are being discriminated against.
4 // ARE YOU FOCUSED ON LOVE?
As parents, our hearts break in the shadow of these tragic events, and our anxiety, anger, and fear, unfortunately, leak out onto our kids. It’s okay, to be honest with your kids, but it’s important to talk to them about how your family can respond to what’s happening in our world in a positive way.
As you navigate these important conversations, focus on what matters most: LOVE. Put love into action, and rest in the hope that is found there. And dole out love in especially large doses on your kids so they feel safe and secure. Hug them tightly and let them know that God is with them and they don’t have to be afraid. And neither do you.
For help with age appropriate conversations addressing recent events, check out this article: How to Talk to Your Kids About Racism: An Age-by-Age Guide.