Once upon a time there was a priest. He was a good, devout priest, who was careful to follow religious law, and took his responsibility as a leader of his people very seriously.

The law said that if he sullied his hands with blood, he would be unclean, and so unable to serve at Temple. Therefore, he was always careful to stay away from violence and other unclean things.

When he passed by the body on the road, he was only doing his duty when he moved well away to the other side. He was keeping his hands clean. He was staying out of politics. His people needed him, after all.

When another man stopped later — well, he was only a Samaritan, so, of course, he wouldn’t know any better. The Samaritans, after all, were poor followers of the law. They were outcast — and this one was now most definitely unclean.

Perhaps the priest said a prayer when he saw the body. Perhaps he spared a thought for the man’s pain or the man’s family. Perhaps he shook his head, and said what is the world coming to, and thanked God for his own safe journey. Or perhaps he shrugged and thought the man should have known better than to travel alone at night.

Perhaps the priest heard later that the body he’d seen had actually still been alive, and that a Samaritan had saved him. He would have praised God for this wonderful miracle, of course. But he would also have banned the Samaritan from entering the Temple with bloodied, unclean hands.

How many find themselves sympathizing with this priest? How many understand exactly where he’s coming from? We are all this priest from Jesus’s parable. Do we truly ask WWJD — what would Jesus do? Do we really want to know? Or do we wrap ourselves in the comfort of following religious law?

The world is on fire right now and the vast majority of Christianity is focused inward. We want to make it to our place of worship — and so we turn away from acknowledging anything that might hinder that goal. We want to keep our hands clean and stay out of anything political.

A small minority of our Christian community may even have helped beat that man up. We condemn such actions, of course, and say we would never do such a thing. We say this quietly. To ourselves. After all, if we said such things publicly, that would be sowing division, judging others, failing to forgive … so we mostly stay silent.

Each tree is known by its own fruit. So take a careful, hard look. And ask yourself this: When messages of love, acceptance and support are coming from atheists, gay and transgender groups, Black Lives Matter protesters, illegal immigrants and their families, lapsed Catholics who have fallen away from the Church… what should the world think of our clean hands? When the loudest voices they hear from us are so full of hate, what fruit do we bear by quietly “staying out of politics,” or worse, saying that “we’ll pray for him but he should have known better?”

Michele Brown is a parishioner at St. Mary’s Church in Coxsackie