Friendship Advent Reflection, Day 12

I live in Albemarle, North Carolina, a small mill town that has lost most of its manufacturing base, has an aging population, with one of the largest opiod addiction problems in the state. It is probably one of the most racially divided places I have ever lived. Can Jesus' friendship notions address issues of racial division in the contemporary North American context? One of Jesus' most famous parables is that of the Good Samaritan, a story in which the Samaritan comes to the aid of a man who has been wounded and left for dead by robbers on a lonely wilderness road (Luke 10:25-37). The man was not aided by a Levite, or by a priest, who both pass him by. The text is typically interpreted to accentuate the virtue of the Samaritan who helped his neighbor, even though Samaritans were not generally friendly to the Jews. I have a different take about the meaning of the parable, but more about that on a later date...

What would it take for us to befriend people who are different than us? What would justice look like, when so many generations of hurt and injustice in our communities have not been addressed? Can re-imagining friendship help us address racism, and the vile legacies we have inherited from our parents and grandparents? One of the fascinating organizations I uncovered while doing research for my book is called Mission Mississippi, an organization that is dedicated to healing the racial division in that deep South state one friendship at a time. They do so by having weekly prayer breakfasts, alternating between the black and white churches, breakfasts in which African Americans and Euro-Americans sit at the same table, share from their brokenness and needs, make themselves vulnerable to one another, and pray with one another. Are such simple friendships enough to change a culture and address structures of injustice? Or does it have to start here? If not with friendship, how would we start to heal those deep and broken wounds?

Each day of advent, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 25, I plan to post a few thoughts on an aspect of friendship I learned while writing my book, Virtuous Friendship: The New Testament, Greco-Roman Friendship Language, and Contemporary Community, available on Amazon through this link. This will be a chance for me to share with you all a little bit from what I learned, while giving you, hopefully, a chance to take a deep breath during this busy season and do some reflection. Also, you won't have to secure another resource for Advent. I realize that you are all at many different places with regard to faith and belief, so use these reflections however you see fit. If you'd be interested in having me come speak at your church, lead a Bible Study, or even just Zoom or Skype in for a Q&A with a Sunday School class or other small group, let me know: doug.hume@pfeiffer.edu.

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