Gospel Goes Ghetto

When Saul starts hunting for Christians, they scatter. Philip ran away to Samaria. What was he thinking?

The scripture context is so distant we don’t feel the risk Philip takes. Clarence Jordan tried to recapture the emotion of the stories by translating the New Testament (he was a Greek scholar so it was not a rough-shod paraphrasing) into his Jim Crow Atlanta (The Cotton-Patch Gospel). He tells the story of crucifixion as lynching, which captures the scandal of the gospel when Peter say to the Jewish leaders, “The one you lynched is the messiah!”

So Clarence retells Philips’ venture into Samaria as a suburban white boy going into the ghetto. That captures Philip's risky move. Philip was not going to his relative's neighborhood. The mistrust between the Jews and Samaritans was mutual. Philip was facing his fears. But he weighed the dangers and Philip concluded Saul was scarier than the ghetto. Perhaps Philip walks the streets, his hands shaky and guarding his wallet. But no mugging. He loosens his grip then his heart. The judgment of the established Temple still sears his skin. Those cuts sensitizes him to what the Samaritans were getting from that same establishment, rejection and judgment. Philip’s prejudices are shattered by himself being a victim of prejudiced persecution. Suddenly, the ghetto he used to walked around becomes more than a hiding place. It becomes a mission field: fellow sufferers of persecution, fellow brothers and sisters in need of some good news.

We are selective with our friendships and associations. That blinds us to God’s work. It is easier to blame people for their lot so we don’t feel responsibility. Sometimes God cuts our hearts so we feel the scars of others. At that moment, rather than pretending we are not hurt, how about letting our hurt lead us into other’s hurt? How about seeking Christ’s healing together? Philip’s journey gets exciting in the ghetto of Samaria. As exciting as food distribution would have been as a deacon in Jerusalem Church, doing miracles and being transported after baptizing an Ethiopian eunuch sound more fun.