Barclay's "Mind of Jesus"

Lesson 5

The Master Teacher

The Parable of the Good Nigger*

(Adapted from The Cotton Patch Gospel)

[Scene: Gainesville, Georgia, in the mid-1950's. Southern-style racial injustice is in full bloom. Jesus is preaching to a group that ranges from businessmen on their lunch break to prostitutes, derelicts, white trash, and Negroes. Some of the local sheriffs and ministers have gathered to see if they can make Jesus look bad, maybe even catch him "inciting a riot" so they can throw him in jail.]

One of the ministers said, "Preacher, tell us again what we have to do to go to heaven." Jesus replied, "You're a minister. What do you say?"

The minister immediately went on autopilot: "The Good Book makes that perfectly clear: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself.'" Said Jesus: "You have correctly stated what God requires of you, sir; do that and I assure you that you will go to heaven."

"And," said the minister, with mock sincerity, "exactly who is my neighbor?"

"Let me tell you a story," said Jesus. "Once there was a traveling salesman. One day, when he was headed for Dalton, he was jumped by a gang of thugs. They beat him half-way to death, took his money and car, and left him to die along the side of the road. Soon, a prominent businessman drove up, realized that he had stumbled along the scene of a crime, got real scared, and sped away. Then a minister came by, pushed the unconscious salesman with his foot, muttered something about 'this sinful world,' and he drove away too. Later on, an old Negro man, a junk collector, came by. He listened for the salesman's breath, realized he was still alive, and put him in his truck to drive him back to Gainesville. At the first hotel, he got the man a room, stayed with him for a day, and shared his food with him. He paid the hotel clerk all the money he had, and promised to come back after he sold his junk to take care of any extra charges."

"Now, you tell me," said Jesus, "which one was that man's neighbor?" There was a palpable silence in the air as Jesus and the minister stared at each other.

"I guess it was that nigger," the minister reluctantly acknowledged.

"Then," Jesus replied, "why don't you go, and act the way you know you should."


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* The word "nigger" used above is, obviously, a hateful term that has been properly banished from the English language. It is used here, though, as you will see from reading the parable, because when Jesus told the parable of the "good Samaritan," the Samaritans were a despised racial minority and the word "Samaritan" was the same kind of slur as the word "nigger."