Who Is My Neighbor?

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I ran across a fantastic quote by Dr. King. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”― Martin Luther King Jr.

We are dealing with a lot of very emotionally charged issues in our country these days: police shootings in urban neighborhoods, Syrian Refugees relocating to the United States, and Hispanic and Latino undocumented works and immigrants. All of these issues challenge us to deal with the same exchange Jesus had with the young Jewish expert in the law.

The conversation went like this:

25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (CEB)

At the heart of this famous exchange is a call to change. That change is still needed today.

Jesus goes on to tell this young expert in the law a story.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Then as the account goes, a Priest sees him and leaves him for dead. Then a Levite sees him and is too busy to get involved and leaves him for dead.

At this point, things are looking rather grim. Then along comes a Samaritan. Now if you are a Jewish person hearing this story. You are thinking to yourself well this guy is toast. There is now way in the world this enemy will stop and help. If anything he might come along and put him out of his misery. Samaritans in that day were viewed with the same level of hatred as Blacks were during the civil rights movements of Dr. King’s day.

So here we have a Jew and a Samaritan and the unthinkable happens.

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

What is amazing about all of this is if the man had know who was helping him he probably would have rejected the help. And the Samaritan took a chance walking into town with this injured Jewish man on his donkey. The town’s people probably assumed he did it. It was like an Indian walking into town with an injured cowboy. But I love what the text says. The Samaritan man looks on him and had pity on Him.

In the next section, we get the purpose of this parable.

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The challenge of our times how do we model the example of our Lord and Savior Jesu Christ? How do we show mercy on those whom God has placed around us as our neighbors?  It is a sad reality that Dr. King’s dream has come to fruition. Jesus’ desire to bring back all the lost sheep of the house of Israel is not complete. The kingdom’s work is not done. As long as there are people who are persecuted and disenfranchised the Church of Jesus Christ has work to do to see the dream become a reality. As long as there are groups of people who face hatred and oppressed the dream is not complete. As long as there are people that we walk by in need, and we think we are too busy to stop and give aid the dream is not complete.

We are called by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be a neighbor to the ones who need mercy. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And who is our neighbor? Anyone, we come into contact with,  not just the people who look like us and think like us, but everyone God places in our lives is a neighbor.

Like the Good Samaritan our mission in the world is to “Go and show mercy.” In doing so, you model for those who are far from God the love of the Savior and the mercy and grace of God. So go and do likewise.
Good Fences?

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