why we should rebuild new orleans
7/14/2006 12:08:00 AM
For once I am not writing about SBC stuff or fundamentalism, but rather about something that is more along the lines of what the stated purpose of this blog is: theology and missions. So hopefully this will be a breath of fresh air. :)

Unless you live in a cave, you are probably well aware of what has been going on in New Orleans over the last few months since Katrina. Katrina as we all know wreaked havoc on the city. In an unprecedented effort, churches stepped to reach out to the victims of Katrina, and they did. The SBC alone was the third largest relief organization in the ravished Gulf Coast, and this isn't counting the countless of non-SBC churches that participated in helping out the victims. It was amazing to see independent fundamentalist Baptists join with semi-charismatic to give relief to so many first hand. This response was awesome, and the church needs to be commended for it.

Now that the initial response is over, there are a number of questions swirling about what we should do with New Orleans. So many are opposed to rebuilding New Orleans for a number of reasons. Some are pragmatic and say that it is pointless to rebuild because it will happen again. Some say it costs way to much to rebuild, and ask who is going to pay for it. Some say Katrina was God's wrath on the city and he wiped it out to purge it from its sin, and we shouldn't rebuild a city that is known for its decadence.

There are a number of other reason not to rebuild New Orleans and they may all have merit, but the primary reason to rebuild New Orleans I feel outweighs any objections we might have, and this is found in the simple command Jesus gave: Love thy neighbor.

In Luke 10, Jesus is having a dialog with an expert in the law who ask him what they must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers giving the two Great Commandments, and the expert wanting to justify himself asks, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus answered with this story:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'
He then asks, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" and the expert naturally referenced the Samaritan. Out of this passage I think there are some things we can glean.

First, note that we don't know the nationality of the man who was attacked. This may seem like an insignificant point, but I think it has some significance, because we do know the nationalities of the other three characters. We know the priest and the Levite were both Jews, and the nationality of the Samaritan is given, but not of the victim. The priest, Levite, and Samaritan did not know the man's nationality. This nationality obviously didn't matter to the Samaritan, but probably would have to the priest and Levite who would have shunned the Samaritan and obviously the victim too. It would seem that the priest and Levite would only help their kinsmen or those they knew, unlike the Samaritan who had no regard for nationality or knowledge of the mans background. In pertaining to New Orleans, we really shouldn't worry about whom we are rebuilding for or what we are rebuilding. The Samaritan didn't care, but he saw the man's needs and he met them regardless of the man's background. Such is how the body of Christ should work.

Second, the Samaritan did not help the man out of compulsion, but out of a sense of compassion. The priests and the Levites avoided the man, because by touching the man, they would have made themselves ceremonially unclean and would have not been able to fulfill there temple duties, which was something that was a prestigious honor in the days of the New Testament. Had they not been at the temple, then others may have questions them or they may have not received the honor that comes from working at the temple. The Samaritan was motivated by a since of compassion, while the priest and Levite avoid him because it would have been politically inconvenient. Pertaining to New Orleans, we shouldn't rebuild or avoid rebuilding as due to political motivation, but should be motivated by a compassion to help people who need help.

Third, note what the Samaritan did. First he treated the man's wounds with oil, wine, and bandages, and then took the man to an inn to care for him. The story doesn't stop there, but the Samaritan paid for lodging for the wounded man until he was completely healed. The Samaritan met both the immediate need and the long-term need of the wounded man. The church did an excellent job of meeting the immediate needs of Katrina victims, but few have done anything to provide long-term solutions to the needs of Katrina victims. Churches should be commended for doing what they did in the months and days immediately following the storm, but the job isn't over, and there are a lot of people who still need help putting there lives back together again and the Church can play an integral part in helping people rebuild their lives physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Fourth, in the same passage we note that the Samaritan used his own supplies and resources to care for the man. He did so at expense to himself, and was willing to go the extra mile to see to it that the wounded man recovered to a state were he was lively. Anytime Christians reach out to others, it costs something, and may come at a great personal expense. I know some churches and individuals gave above and beyond the call of duty in terms of time, talents, and treasure to help others. I thank God for them, and I pray that they inspire others to do so.

The realities of natural disasters are real. We've seen in just the last two years numbers of natural disasters happen all over the world. There was a major earthquake in Pakistan killing thousands and leaving millions homeless. There was the tsunami in Indonesia that did likewise. Nipping its heals was another major earthquake. There really is no place on earth at is immune to disasters whether man-made or natural. There are wars, famines, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, droughts, hurricanes, typhoons, floods, avalanches, mudslides and countless other catastrophes that happen everyday all over the world. What happened in New Orleans can happen anywhere in one shape, form, or fashion and it could happen to you. If I were a person victimized by such things, I would want the Samaritan, not the Levite and priest, to help me out. The Samaritan was the neighbor who gave of himself out of compassion and no regard for personal gain or loss to help those in need.

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