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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

From time to time, most of us feel left out. We feel like misfits. Others seem so confident, so sure of themselves, “insiders” who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded. So, what do we “outsiders” do? We form clubs too. The clubs range from informal to formal. Here is at least one place where we are in and they are out. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen. The price that we pay for this is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life.
Author Eugene Peterson in his introduction of the gospel of Luke talks about this tendency not only in politics, cultures, nationalities, social clubs and economics but also religion. “But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a “membership.”
Luke is the Gospel written for ‘outsiders.’ Luke was a vigorous champion of the outsider. Why? He was an outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of the writers in the New Testament. He shows how Jesus included what the religious establishment would consider outsiders of the day: women, common laborers, the racially different Samaritans, the poor.

Dr. Peterson writes, “As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.”
No parable in the Bible is more clarion on this idea than the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus wanted his audience to have an emotional connection to the characters in the parable…“Who am I in this story?”
The Good Samaritan parable starts with a dialogue about eternal life with Jesus and a young religious scholar. Jesus quotes the Old Testament. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young scholar asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with a parable.
A man was walking on the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers beat him and robbed him. As he lay by the side of the road stripped naked and dying, a Jewish priest came on the road, saw the man, walked around him and continued his journey. Another religious man, a Levite, came along and ignored the man also.
Then a Samaritan man came along, saw the robbed man, and felt compassion on him. The Samaritan gave him first aid, bandaging and disinfecting his wounds. He lifted the victim on his donkey, led him to an inn, and paid for his entire stay at the inn until he recovered.
Jesus asked the young religious scholar, “Which of these three men was the victim’s neighbor?” “The Samaritan” replied the scholar. Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” The audience didn’t expect that curve ball.
The young scholar and the awestruck audience received an ‘Aha’ that day. Remember, Samaritans were bad guys to the Jewish people. They were the worst of the worst. Yet this Samaritan did what the religious establishment was supposed to do…love their neighbor as themselves.
What the Samaritan did was equivalent to a Klu Klux Klan member rescuing, bandaging, and paying for an African American’s recovery or vice versa. What the Samaritan did was equivalent to a radical Muslim rescuing an Israel citizen or vice versa. Our opinions should be formed by the Bible…not culture. That works both ways. We are like an eye, a little white and a little black so we can see.
Selfishness costs nothing but compassion is costly. The Samaritan paid the whole bill…time, energy, finances, and emotions. You see, we like the religious scholar, can have the right answers and not do a thing. Who are we in this parable?
The bigger point of this story is this. Humanity is the robbed man by the side of the road. Naked, stripped, half dead, we all need a Good Samaritan to save us. Religion steps around us. Who is the Good Samaritan in this story? Jesus said, “I will pay the bill in full” and He did. That’s mighty neighborly.
“To love the whole world is no chore, my only problem is my neighbor next door!

church-community-connection-02Church-Community Connection is published weekly in 10 newspapers all over the world. Most of these newspapers are local paid subscription newspapers. The goal of these 450 word articles is to build a bridge to the community through humor, wisdom and changing mental perceptions that the community has of the church.

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