Monday, June 25, 2018

Who is my neighbor?

The Gospel of Luke -- according to John (that's me).
If you were at church with me on Sunday morning or if we were having a simple conversation, I would probably use the more familiar title of Story-time with Pastor John.
As it is, I'll try to lay this simple story out the way I would tell it in preaching or in conversation. It's a story that most people have heard in some form or fashion. If you'd rather read it for yourself, you'll find it in the tenth chapter of the Gospel According to Luke.

Jesus is doing his thing and teaching about how we should live and a lawyer (probably a Pharisee since they were the ones that were all about living by the 613 laws of the Torah) asks the simple question, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
Jesus answered, "You're a lawyer. What does the Law say?"
The lawyer responds with an answer that Jesus has given, "Love God with everything you've got and love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus says, "That's right! Do it and you'll live!"

Although the answer seems simple enough, the lawyer asks for some clarity. I mean if we're talking about eternal life, we need to make sure of the details, right?
So the lawyer asks, "Who is my neighbor?"

That's when Jesus tells his story:
There was a man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. While on the way, he fell among thieves that beat him, took his clothes and all of his belongings, and left him badly beaten and bloodied at the side of the road. A priest passed by but saw the man and passed by without stopping. Later, a servant of the temple passed by, looked at the man and then crossed over to the other side of the road and continued on.
Finally, a man of Samaria passed by and took care of the beaten man. He cleaned and bound his wounds, and transported him to a nearby town. He left him in the care of a local townsman and paid for his care. He also promised to return to pay for any additional charges.
Then Jesus asked, "Which man was the neighbor to the man that had been robbed?"
It's a no brainer, but even the lawyer's answer reveals something about the story. He said, "The man that showed mercy."
And Jesus said, "Yep! You be that guy!"

It's pretty easy to read that, glean a simple lesson about being kind to strangers and move on.
But there is much more to the command "You be that guy!" than just be kind to others.

The Samaritans were a people of mixed race and despised by the Jews.
To understand why this was so, one needs to go back to the divided kingdoms and the rebuilding of the southern kingdom at Jerusalem. Those Jews felt that they had kept their race pure while the northern kingdom (Samaria) had lived with their captors, intermarried with them, and corrupted the Jewish way of life. The Samaritans were considered to be unclean, unholy, and a people to be avoided and despised.
When Jesus asked, "Who was the neighbor?" the lawyer didn't even acknowledge the man's race. He simply said, "The man that showed mercy." It's like he purposely avoided saying the Samaritan was the good guy.

And the command of Jesus wasn't to show mercy to people you don't like. It was to show mercy, even to people that don't like you!

This Samaritan traveler stopped to care for a man that would likely have left him to die if their positions were reversed. Even the priest and Levite (servant of the temple) wouldn't stop to help one of their own. A person's dislike for us is no excuse for our treating them poorly.

There are many people that are applauding the actions of a DC restaurant owner that asked the White House press secretary to leave based on the poor morals of the current Administration.
Some say that they (the White House staff) deserve it.
Many say that if a baker can refuse to bake a cake based on moral differences, a restaurant owner should be able to refuse service based on moral differences.

I think that Jesus would hold us to a higher standard. I'm pretty sure that he would tell us to love those that hate us, to be kind to those that are unkind to us, and to show mercy to those that disagree with us.

I wonder how different things would be if the owner of the restaurant had taken Ms. Sanders aside and said, "Listen, I want you to know that I really disagree with what is being done by your boss. I honestly don't know how you can work for him and do the things you do. Having said that, I want to thank you for choosing to eat in my restaurant and I hope that you and your party enjoy your meal and choose to comeback in the future."

Martin Luther put it this way --
"The Christian shoemaker does his duty, not by putting little crosses on shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship"

How we treat others shouldn't have anything to do with how they treat us.
Ms Sanders comment about the owner's actions saying more about the owner than about her were spot on.

It's funny how easy it is to see the right and wrong of the actions of others and how difficult it is to see our own misdeeds.

Who is my neighbor?
You are.
You are even if we disagree ...
on religion
on politics
on social issues
on civil rights
on economy.
You are my neighbor based on my choice to follow Jesus.
You are my neighbor even if you don't consider me to be your neighbor.

This following Jesus thing can be difficult.
Please be patient with me.

John <><


Mike said...

The law is black and white. Life is shades of gray.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Ultimate truth can be so simple. The devil is in the details.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

It's best to cast a wide net when considering who is your neighbor.