I was making my way through Middlebury, Indiana, one Sunday morning on my way to 8th Street Mennonite Church in Goshen. As I drove past a couple of Amish horse and buggies, I slowed down and passed them on the left. Before long, I was passing numerous Amish families riding bikes and walking. I realized they too were on their way to worship. The diversity of God’s family made me smile.
I drove slowly to give my sisters and brother room and safety on the road. I waved at many of them; some waved back while others did not. I thought about how the Amish are of the same Anabaptist family roots I claim as my own, and that made me feel good. I wondered if they consider me part of their family of faith. I imagined they couldn’t easily identify a black woman in a green Mustang convertible as a sister in Christ; they may have only wondered what a black woman was doing on back roads in Middlebury!
In the midst of all this, I aimed unkind thoughts toward other cars and trucks speeding by without slowing down. Some didn’t even move over to give the Amish families room to walk on the side of the road, so the children, women, and men were repeatedly obligated to walk in the grass. Those drivers were disrespecting my family. Shame on them for not being more respectful of their neighbors!
I consider my encounter on the back roads of small-town America and how it might relate to lessons learned on the road to Emmaus. The travelers on their way to Emmaus were grieving over Jesus’ death, yet still they were kind enough to welcome a stranger into their home for food and rest. What do they teach us about how we should travel this life?
I detect two lessons:
First, we should always remember that every man, woman, and child is part of our family in Christ Jesus. Our love and concern for one another and ourselves should be one and the same. How would you feel if your family was walking along the road and was forced off it by cars racing by?
Second, the travelers on the way to Emmaus did not understand Jesus as Lord and Savior, yet nonetheless they welcomed him into their home. I don’t wear a plain dress and bonnet, and the Amish don’t share the lifestyle I’m used to—but why shouldn’t we see one another first and foremost as children of God? I don’t know how the Amish perceived me as I passed them along the road, but I wonder about it. When, if ever, will we act according to our conviction that race/ethnicity, religious tradition, and gender cannot define our status before God? Whether Amish or atheist, black or white, male or female—didn’t Christ come for all?
The biblical story of the road to Emmaus makes it clear that revelation occurs in the breaking of bread. I may never have occasion to break bread with my Amish sisters and brothers, but it is vital that I break bread with those who otherwise may never realize that I am their sister in Christ.