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LUKE 10:25-37 | THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

LUKE 10:25-37

JULY 10, 2016

 

 

PETER WAS AT THE GATES OF HEAVEN INTERVIEWING A MAN. HE SAID, “YOU HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING BAD, BUT YOU ALSO HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING GOOD EITHER. IF YOU CAN TELL ME JUST ONE GOOD THING THAT YOU’VE DONE, I’LL LET YOU IN.”

 

“WELL,” THE MAN SAID, “I WAS TRAVELING ON THE ROAD WHEN I SAW A GROUP OF THUGS ROBBING A WOMAN.  SO I WENT UP TO THEM AND SHOUTED FOR THEM TO STOP.

 

UNFORTUNATELY, THINGS GOT A LITTLE OUT OF HAND AND I ENDED UP PUNCHING OUT THEIR LEADER.  THEN I CHALLENGED EVERYONE ELSE TO FIGHT ME.”

 

“WOW,” SAID ST. PETER, “THAT IS GOOD.  WHEN DID ALL THIS HAPPEN?”

“ABOUT TWO MINUTES AGO.”

 

THE TRUTH IS, BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR, JUST MIGHT COST US OUR LIFE!

 

IT WAS A LAWYER WHO ASKED JESUS THE QUESTION, “WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?”

 

JESUS, EVIDENTLY SOMETHING OF A BARRISTER HIMSELF, TURNED THE QUESTION BACK ONTO THE MAN.  “WHAT IS WRITTEN IN THE LAW?  WHAT DO YOU READ THERE?”

 

THE LAWYER ANSWERED, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

 

AND JESUS SAID: “YOU HAVE GIVEN THE RIGHT ANSWER; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.”

 

BUT SEEKING TO CLARIFY WHAT HE MEANT BY NEIGHBOR, THE LAWYER ASKED A FOLLOW-UP QUESTION, “AND WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR?”  WHAT HE WAS LOOKING FOR WAS A LEGAL DEFINITION.

 

ACCORDING TO FRED BUECHENER, HE PRESUMABLY WAS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING ON THE ORDER OF THIS:

 

“A NEIGHBOR (HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS THE PARTY OF THE FIRST PART) IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS MEANING A PERSON OF JEWISH DESCENT WHOSE LEGAL RESIDENCE IS WITHIN A RADIUS OF NO MORE THAN THREE STATUTE MILES FROM ONE’S OWN LEGAL RESIDENCE;

 

UNLESS THERE IS ANOTHER PERSON OF JEWISH DESCENT (HEREINAFTER REFERRED TO AS THE PARTY OF THE SECOND PART) LIVING CLOSER TO THE PARTY OF THE FIRST PART THAN IS ONESELF, IN WHICH CASE THE PARTY OF THE SECOND PART IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS THE NEIGHBOR OF THE PARTY OF THE FIRST PART AND ONE IS ONESELF RELIEVED OF ALL RESPONSIBILITY OF ANY SORT OR KIND WHATSOEVER.”

 

THIS WAS, IN FACT, THE JEW’S LEGAL DEFINITION OF NEIGHBOR IN JESUS’ TIME – ONLY THOSE WITHIN THREE STATUTE MILES, WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE, UNLESS SOMEONE ELSE LIVED CLOSER TO THEM THEN YOU DID.

 

INSTEAD OF THIS BEING THE DEFINITION JESUS GAVE THE LAWYER, JESUS TOLD THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN; THE POINT OF WHICH SEEMS TO BE, THAT YOUR NEIGHBOR IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS MEANING ANYBODY WHO NEEDS YOUR HELP.

 

THE LAWYER’S RESPONSE IS LEFT UNRECORDED.

 

I SUPPOSE THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN IS PROBABLY THE BEST KNOWN STORY OF JESUS’ MINISTRY, EVEN BY THOSE OUTSIDE OF CHRISTENDOM.

 

THE TERM ITSELF “GOOD SAMARITAN” HAS ENTERED OUR PUBLIC LEXICON AND THERE’S HARDLY A PERSON WHO DOESN’T KNOW THE MEANING OF THE TERM, EVEN IF THEY DON’T KNOW THE STORY FROM WHENCE IT CAME.

 

HOSPITALS HAVE BEEN NAMED AFTER THE GOOD SAMARITAN.  THERE’S ONE IN WEST PALM BEACH; AND ANOTHER IN CINCINNATI; ONE IN WEST ISLIP, NEW YORK; AND ANOTHER IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA; AND PLENTY MORE AROUND THE COUNTRY, AND I’M SURE, AROUND THE WORLD.

 

THERE ARE GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS IN PRACTICALLY EVERY STATE, TO ENCOURAGE AND PROTECT PASSERS-BY WHO STOP TO HELP THOSE IN NEED.

 

THERE ARE CHARITIES, HOSPICES, NURSING HOMES, COUNSELING CENTERS, AND PLENTY OF OTHER HELPING AGENCIES BEARING THE “NAME” OF THIS KINDLY STRANGER WHO STOPPED TO HELP ANOTHER ALONG THE WAY.

 

A NEIGHBOR IS ANYONE WHO NEEDS OUR HELP.

 

THE STORY OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN HAS BEEN USED TO ARGUE FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION (EVEN AS RECENTLY AS THE DEBATE OVER BREXIT); TO ADVOCATING FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM; TO COUNTERING THE NOTION OF NIMBY – NOT IN MY BACKYARD.

 

NOT LONG AFTER I BEGAN MY FIRST PASTORATE A LOCAL MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTION SOUGHT TO PLACE A HALF-WAY HOUSE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN WHICH OUR CHURCH WAS LOCATED.

 

AS A MEMBER OF THE RELIGIOUS ADVISORY BOARD TO THAT MENTAL HEALTH INSTITUTION I AGREED TO HOLD THE NEIGHBORHOOD INFORMATIONAL MEETINGS IN OUR FELLOWSHIP HALL.

 

I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW MANY ANGRY PHONE CALLS WE RECEIVED JUST FOR HOLDING THE MEETING!

 

THE PROPOSAL MET WITH SUCH OPPOSITION – NOT IN MY BACKYARD – THAT THE HOSPITAL NEVER WAS ABLE TO FIND A LOCATION FOR THEIR HALF-WAY HOUSE, AND THE PATIENTS WERE EVENTUALLY RELEASED INTO THE STREETS!

 

YOU CAN PROBABLY GUESS WHAT THE “NEIGHBORS” THOUGHT OF THAT!

 

BECAUSE THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN IS PERHAPS JESUS’ MOST FAMOUS TEACHING, AND BEST KNOWN STORY, I SUPPOSE PREACHERS HAVE LOOKED AT IT FROM NEARLY EVERY ANGLE AND POSITION POSSIBLE.

 

SO THERE MIGHT NOT BE A WHOLE LOT NEW THAT I CAN SAY ABOUT IT THIS MORNING, BUT I DID GET TO THINKING ABOUT THE MINDSET OF SOME OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE STORY.

 

THE ROBBER’S MINDSET WAS: “WHAT YOU HAVE IS MINE, AND I WILL TAKE IT.”

 

THE PRIEST AND THE LEVITE, WHO PASSED BY ON THE OTHER SIDE, THEIR MINDSET WAS: “WHAT IS MINE IS MINE, INCLUDING MY OWN BUSINESS, SO I’LL KEEP WHAT’S MINE – AND MIND MY OWN BUSINESS.”

 

THE SAMARITAN’S MINDSET WAS: “WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS, AND I WILL SHARE IT.”

 

SO THE SAMARITAN GETS DOWN OFF HIS ANIMAL; BINDS UP THE MAN’S WOUNDS; PUTS THE WOUNDED MAN BACK ON HIS ANIMAL, TAKES HIM TO THE NEAREST INN, PRE-PAYS FOR THE MAN’S CARE, AND PROMISES TO PAY THE INNKEEPER MORE ON HIS NEXT TRIP THROUGH, SHOULD THE WOUNDED MAN’S CARE EXCEED HIS PRE-PAYMENT.

 

NOTICE THAT THE SAMARITAN DID NOT DO THE LEAST HE COULD GET AWAY WITH DOING, HE DID THE MOST!  NOT THE MINIMUM, BUT THE MAXIMUM HE COULD DO!

LET’S ALSO REMEMBER THAT JEWS AND SAMARITANS; THEY WERE FROM OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE TRACK; THE JEWS BELIEVED SAMARITANS WERE HALF-BREEDS; WHO WORSHIPPED GOD IN THE WRONG WAY, IN WRONG PLACES.

 

“NOW WHICH OF THESE THREE, DO YOU THINK, WAS A NEIGHBOR TO THE MAN WHO FELL INTO THE HANDS OF THE ROBBERS?”  JESUS ASKS.

 

“THE ONE WHO SHOWED MERCY,” THE LAWYER ANSWERS.  JESUS SAID TO HIM, “GO AND DO LIKEWISE.”

 

AND THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD!

 

NO LONGER IS MY NEIGHBOR JUST THOSE WHO ARE LIKE ME LIVING WITHIN A THREE MILE RADIUS;

 

NOPE, NOW WE’VE LET THE NOSE OF THE CAMEL IN THE TENT, AND NOT ONLY WILL THE REST OF THE CAMEL GET IN, BUT SO WILL EVERYONE ELSE!

 

YOU SEE, WHEN WE ACT NEIGHBORLY; WHEN WE WELCOME THE STRANGER; RECEIVE THE IMMIGRANT INTO OUR MIDST;

 

WHEN WE FEED THE HUNGRY AND GIVE DRINK TO THE THIRSTY;

 

WHEN WE CLOTHE THE NAKED; VISIT THE SICK AND IMPRISONED; PROVIDE HEALTHCARE FOR THE ILL AND WOUNDED IN BODY AND IN MIND;

 

WHEN WE HOUSE THE HOMELESS; EMPLOY THE UNEMPLOYABLE;

 

PROVIDE SPACE FOR THE ADDICTED TO FIND THEIR WAY OUT OF ADDICTION TOGETHER WITH FELLOW ADDICTS;

 

CARE FOR THE VETERAN; PROTECT THE INNOCENT; ADOPT THE ORPHANED; STAND UP FOR THE BATTERED; FIGHT FOR THE OPPRESSED;

 

WHEN WE ANSWER “YES!” TO BEING OUR BROTHER’S AND SISTER’S KEEPER AS THE BLOOD OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS KILLED IN GUN VIOLENCE CRIES OUT FROM THE GROUND;

 

WHEN WE DEFEND THE RIGHTS OF ALL REGARDLESS OF RACE, RELIGION, CREED, COLOR, OR SEXUAL IDENTITY;

 

WHEN WE SAY YES IN MY BACKYARD!

 

WHEN WE AFFIRM THAT BLACK LIVES MATTER, AND BLUE LIVES MATTER, AND ALL LIVES MATTER!

 

WE ARE DOING “LIKEWISE” AS JESUS INSTRUCTED US TO DO.

 

AND IT JUST MIGHT COST US OUR LIFE, OR AT LEAST, LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.

 

SO WHAT’S OUR MINDSET?

 

WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE – I’LL TAKE IT.

WHAT’S MINE IN MINE – I’LL KEEP IT; MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS.

WHAT’S MINE IS YOURS – AND I’LL SHARE IT WITH YOU.

 

LET’S NOT KID OURSELVES – WE CAN ANSWER THAT QUESTION ANY WAY WE WISH, BUT THERE’S ONLY ONE CORRECT, CHRISTIAN ANSWER!

 

ONLY ONE NEIGHBORLY ANSWER, ACCORDING TO NONE OTHER THAN JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF!

 

AND FOR CHRIST’S SAKE – AND I MEAN THAT LITERALLY – HE’S TOLD US WHAT THE ANSWER IS!

 

SO FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO TAKE A HARD LINE ON WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS; WHO WANT TO TAKE WHAT IT SAYS LITERALLY; WHO SAY THAT WE MUST DO WHATEVER JESUS AND THE BIBLE TELL US TO DO –

 

HE TELLS US TO “GO AND DO LIKEWISE!”

 

THE GOOD SAMARITAN HAS LIVED IN MEMORY FOR CENTURIES WITHOUT A NAME – BECAUSE HIS NAME, HER NAME, IS OUR NAME, WHEN WE “GO AND DO LIKEWISE.”

 

NEARLY 30 YEARS AGO A STUDY WAS CONDUCTED AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY, DESIGNED TO FIGURE OUT THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH GOOD PEOPLE WOULD ACT FOR GOOD, OR AT LEAST BE HELPFUL.

 

TWO PSYCHOLOGISTS ASKED A GROUP OF THEOLOGY STUDENTS TO WALK TO ANOTHER BUILDING ON CAMPUS TO GIVE A SHORT SPEECH, EITHER ABOUT THEIR MOTIVES FOR STUDYING THEOLOGY OR ABOUT THE BIBLICAL PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN.

 

MEANWHILE, THE PSYCHOLOGISTS HAD ARRANGED FOR AN ACTOR TO BE STATIONED ON THE PATH BETWEEN THE TWO BUILDINGS, SLUMPED OVER, COUGHING AND OBVIOUSLY IN BAD SHAPE.

 

THE TWO EXPERIMENTERS HAD ALSO LED HALF THE STUDENTS TO BELIEVE THEY WERE LATE FOR THEIR SPEAKING APPOINTMENT, AND HALF THAT THEY HAD AMPLE TIME.

 

SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RESPONSES WERE?  WHO WAS MOST LIKELY TO HELP: THOSE WITH THE STORY OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN UPPERMOST IN THEIR MIND OR THOSE THINKING ABOUT THEIR MOTIVES FOR STUDYING THEOLOGY?

 

THERE WAS A SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GROUPS, BUT IT WAS NOT ALONG THE LINES OF SPEECH CONTENT.

 

THE CONTENT OF THE SPEECH MADE NO DIFFERENCE.  ABOUT THE SAME NUMBER OF GOOD SAMARITAN SPEAKERS AND THEOLOGY MOTIVATION STUDENTS STOPPED.

 

WHAT DID MAKE A DIFFERENCE WAS HOW RUSHED THE STUDENTS THOUGHT THEMSELVES TO BE.

 

ONLY 10 PERCENT OF THOSE LED TO BELIEVE THEY WERE RUNNING LATE STOPPED TO HELP.

 

OF THOSE TOLD THAT THEY HAD PLENTY OF TIME, 60 PERCENT STOPPED TO HELP.  HELPING OTHERS TAKES TIME.

 

SO YES, AS WE MAKE OUR WAY THROUGH THIS LIFE, LET’S SLOW DOWN; LET’S TAKE TIME TO SMELL THE ROSES, IF THERE ARE INDEED, ROSES TO BE SMELLED;

 

BUT WHEN THERE’S SOMEBODY NEEDING OUR HELP – AND THERE ALWAYS IS – LET’S TAKE THE TIME TO STOP AND HELP.

 

ONE LAST THING – AS I SAID EARLIER, THIS BEING, PERHAPS, JESUS’ BEST KNOWN STORY, HIS MOST OFT-TOLD PARABLE, IT HAS BEEN SLICED, AND DICED, AND PREACHED FROM EVERY IMAGINABLE ANGLE;

 

INCLUDING, ON THE VERY RARE OCCASION, FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE MAN WHO WAS BEATEN AND ROBBED.

 

FORGETTING FOR A MOMENT THOSE WHO PASSED BY, LOOK AT WHAT HE ALLOWED THE SAMARITAN TO DO.

 

HE ACCEPTED THE MAN’S HELP; HE ALLOWED THE MAN TO COME TO HIS AID; HE CONSENTED TO THE MAN TOUCHING HIM, HELPING HIM, HEALING HIM, EVEN ALLOWING HIM TO PAY, ADDITIONALLY, FOR HIS CARE.

 

SOMETIMES – WE’RE NOT IN THE ROLE OF THE PRIEST, THE LEVITE, OR EVEN THE SAMARITAN; SOMETIMES WE ARE THE ONE IN NEED OF HELP.

 

IF, AND WHEN, THAT HAPPENS, LET’S ALLOW OTHERS TO BE NEIGHBORLY TOWARDS US.  LET’S ALLOW THEM TO LIVE OUT CHRIST’S COMMAND TO “GO AND DO LIKEWISE.”  LET’S LET THEM HELP.

AS HARD AS IT MAY BE TO ACCEPT THE HELP OF ANOTHER; AS VULNERABLE AS IT MAY MAKE US FEEL; AS CONTRARY TO OUR USUAL NATURE AS THAT MAY BE; IT’S OKAY TO LET OTHERS HELP US WHEN A NEED ARISES.

 

THIS IS PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO “LOVE OUR NEIGHBORS AS OURSELVES.

 

A NEIGHBOR IS ANYONE WHO NEEDS OUR HELP; EVEN WHEN THAT SOMEONE IS US.

 

“GO AND DO LIKEWISE.”

 

THIS IS HOW WE ARE TO LIVE.

 

THIS IS HOW WE “INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE.”

 

 

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