Friday, April 3, 2015

And Who is My Neighbor?

Over the last 5 or 6 months, there has been a lot of things happening all around me. A lot of things that I have had no control over, a lot of things that I haven't been shy about talking about. Most of it being asking for prayer, and living with a great and terrible daily concern and even fear. But even overall, wanting to know what I, as just one person, can do to help. Through everything that my (former) city has been through, one story has been paramount in my mind. One teaching of Jesus that has stuck out over all. I've always been able to explain it, but have never really put it into practice on a daily level before this last year. I always think of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In the book of Luke, a lawyer tries to tempt Jesus by asking Him which was the great commandment. I love how Jesus replies.

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” ”
~ Luke 10:25-29

I love that question: “who is my neighbor?” Who am I to love?

In typical Jesus teaching, we get a great story with a huge moral. To understand how powerful the story is, we do need to understand some of the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. There was a lot of hatred and animosity between the two people groups that states started back when the remnant of 43,000 returned to Israel after being exiled, and has festered ever since. It's an ethnic/racial divide among people who live not far from each other. Neither group wanted to have much to do with the other, and Jewish travelers would often go out of their way to go around Samaria instead of the shorter way of going through Samaria. I can think of a few places that this takes place now, and some in our own country-as devastating as that is. Jesus gives us the story of the Good Samaritan.

30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’ 36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
~ Luke 10:30-37

Jesus is telling us a few things here: Don't be like the priest or the Levite, help someone in need when you have the ability to, even if it's not what you'd deem “enough” still help, help with no regard to who the person is. Love all. Period. End of discussion. Cross the boundaries that have kept us in chains with whom we help. It doesn't matter if they are Bill Gates, or the homeless man holding a sign. If we have the ability to help in their time of need, we are to help. We are to “go and do the same”. Show mercy. Be tender hearted. Be willing to love. Help rebuild a burnt down city. Help comfort a woman who's business was ruined by hatred. Let children know there is still a reason to smile. Use the talents that God has given you to pass on His love with out expectation of anything in return. We may be giving like the widow with her two mites, out of our need to honor God, but His blessings are immeasurable when we give.

When I read this story, I see all of this. I truly do. The man who was the neighbor to the man robbed was simply “the one who showed him mercy”. Have I shown mercy today? Do I show mercy often? I pray that we all learn to love like this. I know I need work with this topic myself