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The orange and the treatment of others

Dave Moench

It was 1971, and a mild summer's day in Southern Illinois when it happened. Harry and I had probably been running for an hour and a half. Along with the rest of our middle school, we had been encouraged to participate in a March of Dimes 20-mile Walkathon.

At the age of 14, we thought it would be better to run than walk. So, dressed in our cutoffs, t-shirts and sneakers we set off to "win the race!" Nearing the end, with a first-place trophy in mind, we dashed across the finish line only to be unceremoniously handed a certificate and a hot dog.

However, mid-run we became very thirsty. Seeing a fruit vendor, we stopped. "Sir, if you could spare an orange, we'd really appreciate it! We're running for the March of Dimes Walkathon and we're so thirsty. Could we have just one orange?" Without a word, he looked at me, then Harry, then me again. Inspecting his oranges, he carefully pulled one out and handed it to me. "Thanks so much mister!"

And off we ran. Thrilled, we peeled our prize to discover that the carefully selected treasure was rotten! Not until years later would I realize the reason; Harry probably knew it then — Harry was black.

You may be familiar with some version of the joke, "Joe, you're lazy, useless and ugly." Joe's response? "I'm not ugly!" In John 8, Jesus, while warning the religious leaders (v. 44), was chastised, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed" (v. 48)? Jesus' response? "I'm not demon possessed" (v. 49). Notice the omission.

The Samaritan Jews were shunned because in the past they had intermarried with non-Jewish settlers and were considered impure. However, though not a Samaritan, Jesus did not disassociate Himself from them. Why? Because the "Son of Man" is brother to all mankind (Heb. 2:11). Indeed He died for all (Jn. 3:16) — red, yellow, black, or white, rich, poor, male, female, dull or brilliant, sinner or saint — for all!

I hope the man who favored us with a rotten orange amended his ways. However, Jesus is crystal clear about our treatment of one another. When He comes the second time, "He will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats ... [putting] the sheep on His right and the goats on His left" (Matt. 25:31-33). What differentiates the two? Simply this: one has demonstrated compassion for those in need; the other has not (vv. 41-46).

The solidarity Jesus has for all mankind is so complete that He said, "Whatever you did [or, did not do] for the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or, did not do] for Me" (vv. 40, 45). What are you doing, or not doing today for others?