By LORETTA FULTON
“The battle to be like Christ is won or lost in a millisecond.”
It happens as quickly as looking away from someone in need–or looking at them. Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan, Richard Beck said to a group Feb. 7 at First Central Presbyterian Church. But we don’t become the Good Samaritan ourselves because we don’t notice. Seeing “Good Samaritan opportunities” takes intentionality and sometimes a change of heart
“To rewire one’s heart is hard,” Beck said, but worth the effort.
Beck, chairman of the Department of Psychology at Abilene Christian University, was guest speaker for the Feb. 7 Wednesday evening program at First Central Presbyterian. He based his talk on his new book, “Stranger God: Meeting Jesus in Disguise.” A promotional blurb for the book says that when Beck first led a Bible study at the maximum-security French-Robertson unit north of Abilene, he went to meet God.
Beck’s faith was flagging, but he still believed the promise of Matthew 25, that when we visit the prisoner, we visit Jesus. And sure enough, God met him in prison. In his talk and in his book, Beck talks about how psychological experiments show how we are predisposed to like those who are similar to us and avoid those who are unlike us.
The call of the gospel, however, is to override those impulses with compassion, to “widen the circle of our affection.” In the end, Beck turns to the Little Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux for guidance in doing even the smallest acts with kindness, and he lays out a path that any of us can follow.
The Bible is filled with stories of “radical hospitality,” which Beck called “God’s thermometer,” and that is what the church should practice. We may be good at welcoming people into the church, he said, but there is a bigger question.
“Will we welcome people into our hearts?” Beck asked.
“Radical hospitality” calls for widening our moral or “affectional” circle, Beck said. That circle includes people who are like us. Expanding that circle to take in people we sometimes turn a blind eye to is what Jesus calls for.
“That’s a challenging practice for all of us,” Beck said.
Beck not only is popular guest speaker, he also is extremely popular with ACU students. He is an award-winning author, speaker, blogger and professor. During his tenure at ACU, Beck has been selected Teacher of the Year, Honors Teacher of the Year, McNair Mentor of the Year and has won the College of Arts and Sciences Classroom teaching award.