Who Is My Neighbor?
LifePoint Church, it was so fun to be with you this weekend kicking off the exciting series called, ‘Difference Makers.’ Living a life of compassion by caring enough to take action is something that genuinely makes a difference in our world.
Perhaps the best and most memorable illustration of being a difference maker is found in the Bible in Luke 10 in The Good Samaritan.
Nearly one-third of Jesus’ teaching is in the form of parables.
Walking among a storytelling world where literacy was rare and books (or scrolls) were rarer still, most communication was verbal and visual. Memorization was not only commonplace but vital.
Welcome to the power of a parable, an everyday story that teaches spiritual truth. Little stories that answer some big questions, the point of a parable is personal, and the application is immediate.
I encourage you to read through The Good Samaritan casually. Then, read through it again, slowly, paying attention to the detail.
What do you see and hear as you reread it? What’s the context? Who are the characters? What surprises you?
A simple study of the historical context reveals a lot about the details of this story. Jesus’ parables weren’t science fiction or mythology. His parables were stories of everyday occurrences with ordinary people, and The Good Samaritan is no exception.
The Good Samaritan is Jesus’s response to a question.
Luke 10:25 says, ‘One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’’ (NLT)
As he commonly does, Jesus responds to the question with a question. The guy’s response seems pleasing enough to Jesus because he says, ‘Right! Do this, and you will live!’
Did you notice that Jesus’ emphasis is on doing? Maybe he knew the man’s heart because, wanting to justify his actions, he responds by asking, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Is he more interested in knowing than in doing?
‘Who is my neighbor?’ was an age-old debate.
Haven’t many of us tried to narrow some of God’s commands in a way that makes us look good? Minor on what’s unpleasant and major on what comes more naturally or is more comfortable?
Jesus then tells one of the most famous stories ever told. Luke 10:30-37.
The man robbed, beaten, and left for dead is Jewish. The two guys who ignore him are also Jewish. One a priest, the other a temple assistant; a Levite. If anyone should have compassion on this victim lying on the side of the road, it’s these two guys. Each a fellow Jew who know God’s commands and claim to be committed to His ways.
If the third person walking by in Jesus’ story is the typical, predictable hero, he would be another Jew. A common Jewish citizen with no religious pedigree or prestige. He’s the one who does what is right. But this is Jesus, and this is a parable. Here comes the twist.
The one who has compassion on this mans suffering is a Samaritan. What?!?!
Why is that a big deal? It’s because Jews and Samaritans hated each other. Not only do Samaritans not believe what the Jews believe, but they also mock what the Jews believe.
Of all the people you’d expect to ignore the Jewish guy bathing in his pool of blood, it would be the Samaritan. Jesus says that not only did his fellow brothers ignore him, but his arch enemy is the one having compassion for him. He’s the one who cares enough to do something by taking action.
Imagine the look on the faces of his audience when he throws that into the story.
Think of someone you don’t like. Think of someone you can’t stand. Maybe it’s someone who’s hurt you deeply. Perhaps it’s a political figure you can’t stomach. It could be someone who practices a religion that you believe is false, even harmful or hateful. Do you have this person in mind?
It’s likely if Jesus were telling you this parable, that he would say that the person you’re thinking of right now is the Samaritan in this story. Yikes!
There’s a lot more to this incredible story than these few words can convey, but here are some observations that might help us take action and Do Something Simple with this profound teaching.
First of all, this happens in a moment. No one saw it coming, yet Jesus conveys that loving our neighbor, being a difference maker is often about responding to the moment.
A difference maker makes a difference in the moments that matter.
Second, being a difference maker is often inconvenient. The first two guys either don’t care or are too busy. The Samaritan stops what he’s doing and helps.
Keep this in mind, an inconvenience in your schedule may be God’s way to get involved in your day.
Third, a difference maker welcomes the disruption to his or her plans. The Samaritan changes his plans and takes the guy to an inn where he can better take care of him.
Doing what’s right for someone else may require temporarily leaving something undone in our own life.
Next, making a difference can cost more than just time. The Samaritan could have stopped and said, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ but he took it further, much further. He paid for the man’s extended stay at an inn so that he could heal. He even told the innkeeper that if the bill runs higher than the two days worth of wages he paid, he will compensate him for the rest the next time he passes through.
Finally, for a Christ-follower, making a difference is a calling, not an option. Loving others is a command.
Living a life of compassion by caring enough to take action is a mandate.
Jesus says to the religious guy, ‘…now go and do the same.’
Wait, there’s yet another twist. At the beginning of the exchange, the man asks Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
At the end of the parable, Jesus asks, ‘Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ Notice that Jesus asks which of the three guys was the neighbor to the guy beaten up.
He didn’t directly answer the guy’s question, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
He shows him what it means to be the neighbor.
Here’s my simple conclusion.
Who is my neighbor? The one in need.
What’s it mean to be a neighbor? Show mercy. Do something.
Let’s put this into action and be difference makers, living a life of compassion by caring enough to take action.