Servant Sayings #2—THE GOOD NEIGHBOR
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
26 He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"
27 So he answered and said, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,'[h] and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"[i]
28 And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30 Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[j] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"
37 And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."
Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
It is not as easy to know your neighbors as well as you would like to. Even in a place like Fowler. You tend to run in the same streams of people day after day. You tend to get into a routine, and forget to get to know the person across the street, down the road, or that new person that you should introduce yourself to that moved into town. Even in a small town like this.
On the other hand, you tend to run into neighbors in the strangest places. The other day we were celebrating my birthday a little late by going out to eat and taking the little boat ride along the riverwalk in pueblo. I was meandering back to my car with mom walking across Union Avenue. All of the sudden a police offer whipped around and turned on his lights. He started talking to us about jaywalking across the street. I thought the voice sounded a little familiar. Then I knew who it was. Jason Smith in his police car swung around to say hello, harass me, and give me a hard time. You always see your neighbors when you least expect them.
When I would come back and forth from college over Christmas or the summer, I would always see someone in the airport from the high school I went to or someone I competed against in sports in either Minneapolis or in Seattle. Sometimes I would even see someone I went to church with in high school.
I don't blame this guy who asked Jesus who his neighbor is. I am amazed at Jesus' response.
The man asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is. Jesus, after fussing a little, says that answer is of course to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And then to love your neighbor as yourself. The scribe further quizzes Jesus. "Who then," he asks, "Is my neighbor?".
When we are supposed to love our neighbor, does that mean the guy down the street? Does that mean the folks in and around Fowler? The Arkansas Valley? United States? North America? Where is the beginning and the end to loving this neighbor that Jesus is talking about?
He talks about this Samaritan. People from Samaria were people who were not liked by Jewish folks. They were, in fact, hated by other Jews. Samaritans were the groups of Hebrews who chose to intermarry with Gentiles, and compromise instead of being dragged off into slavery. They tried to set up this hybrid version of Christianity. Created their own temples and rituals. They were people who sold out their people and their faith in a faithful Jew's mind, and the more religious you were, the more you hated Samaritans.
So this average guy got beat up and left for dead in a ditch. And the preacher came by, and saw him in the ditch, and got to the other side of the road and got away as soon as possible. Then the chair of the deacon board came by, saw the man, and got as far away from him as possible. Who knew what danger lurked near? Who knew who could hurt the poor guy? Then this Samaritan came by. And he put his bloody body in the back seat of his car. And he got him to the Emergency Room. Then he made arrangements to pay the poor guys ER and rehab bills as he recovered from his life-threatening assault. Jesus asked which of the men was a neighbor to the injured man. Of course the Samaritan was.
Our neighbor, then, is not the people we like to hang out with. It is not just the person across the street. It is the person who we run into who needs our kindness, love, and support. A good neighbor is the kind of person who helps the people they run into with things that needs help with. It is the kind of person who makes sacrifices to assist the people they run into, and the people they have the opportunity to serve. Whether they like them or not. Whether or not they deserve the help. A good neighbor helps those who need their support and assistance. They do that because Jesus commanded it. At the core of what Jesus asks us to do is to be good neighbors.
Our backyard mission project should have been named the good neighbor project. I feel we are a church full of good neighbors that help one another, even at person cost. Even when we have been angry at one another a day or a week or a month before.
In our last thought, we remembered that we pursue greatness when we take the place of service. We serve because we want to be like Jesus.
We also serve because we want to love our neighbor as ourselves. And the best way to love our neighbors in by getting in a habit of serving them in visible and practical ways.
Part of what I am hoping comes out of our backyard mission project, is that we develop a group of men that are willing to gather at least once a month, have a little bit of breakfast, maybe a short devotion, and then go out and continue with what we are starting this September. Continue serving in our community with little small needs the way we started this year. We won't be able to do large scale stuff as much, but we could get several guys to do something. Something to follow the call of being good neighbors TOGETHER as a church in our community.