We are gathered here today to celebrate our common dignity as human beings. We are on a journey together which culminates with us standing in the revelation and full glory of the One who gives all humankind dignity and worth. This is a journey and a truth which was penned powerfully in one of the world's most poignant documents. "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Look among us today. While these words, when originally penned, applied only to a certain demographic of persons in practice, today we see a host of different faces, from different backgrounds, and different life experiences who now realize they too have the God given right to live and love as human beings. Yet no where is this more difficult than when we need to stand with someone who is not like us. When we see the suffering of the "other," I submit to you today we must run on the road of life and stand with men, women, and children who are different than us ethnically, economically, nationally, or socially. In doing so we are ushering in a vision of "Neighborly Love."
So who is my neighbor? Every man, woman, and child who is different than me.
"Who is your neighbor Conway resident?"
There was a certain man who traveled down the 40 Freeway towards Little Rock. On his way, several criminals attacked, stole his goods, and left him in the construction area. Some hours passed and a politician passed on the other side. A traditional family saw the man and chose to continue to Wild River Country. Finally, a person (transgender, illegal immigrant, Muslim, Conservative, Progressive, or home schooler) stopped and helped the man. His wounds were bandaged and he was taken to Conway Regional.
At the hospital the stranger gave a card to the doctor and said, "Make sure his bill is put on my account. Make sure he arrives home."
Which of the three was a neighbor to the injured person?
Now this story maybe familiar to some and new to others.
There are cultures, languages, beliefs, behaviors, economics, and ethnicities which divide us within our city. The issue in the Good Samaritan story was a professional person devaluing another individual on the basis of his "otherness" instead of valuing every person because every person is created in the image and likeness of God. How can I go about loving someone who votes different than me, looks different than me, or believes different than me?
There is a concept in South Africa which can help us through our journey of loving our neighbor. It is the concept of "Ubuntu." Everyone said this with me, "Ubuntu. Ubuntu." What is ubuntu? It is the concept one human being should demonstrate humanity to another. Why? There is the belief there is a universal thread which connects all of us. Because of this interrelatedness and because there is this indestructible and powerful dignity which resides in all of us and transcends all of our racial, economic, and social barriers, we have the opportunity to pause on our human journey to stand with someone else.
I can look at my White brother who is suffering and say because he is a human being I will help him. My White sisters can hear the pain of a Black woman who is grieving over the resurgence of a symbol of age old segregation and slavery, and say because she is a human being I will grieve with her. I can look at my Latino brothers who have not arrived here legally enter into the suffering of a White brother who has lost his home and say because he is a human being I will help him. This is the interrelatedness of life. This is ubuntu. I love you and you love me because we are universally tied together by the eternal dignity conferred on us by God.
So we are on a journey. A journey in which we should all stand with one another. It is a journey in which all human beings should experience what life, liberty, and happiness means in their context. We are neighbors who are to demonstrate mercy, love kindness, and walk humbly in the light of Him who has made us powerful, majestic, creative, and above all given us the capacity to love.