September 23rd, 2004

Who is your neighbor?

"I saw some children on the street the other day,
fighting for some scraps of food somebody threw away,
if anybody saw them he must have turned and walked away,
while everybody prayed that everything would be OK."

"But nobody reached them for the gospel,
though anybody knew that it was right,
and everybody hoped they'd see somebody's light,
but in the end nobody was in sight."

Nobody Reached Them (for the Gospel), uncredited

On Sunday I preached from Luke on the parable of the Good Samaritan and the subject "Who Is My Neighbor?". The Greek simply means "the near one". The people in close proximity to you. Notice in the parable the only impetus for helping the man who fell among thieves is a "chance" encounter resulting in proximity. The Priest and the Levite simply eliminate the closeness by crossing the street. The good Samaritan stays close and does what he can. We all have neighbors who fall on hard times and these encounters need not be viewed as Divine Appointments before they become our responsibility. Here are the points backed by the language Jesus uses in the parable:

1. Stuff happens. The man "fell among thieves". It was a chance happening. It was not God's judgment on his life, it wasn't reaping what he had sowed, it wasn't divine retribution for past sins, he just chose a bad day to travel from Jerusalem to Jericho.

2. When stuff happens and you are there, do something. The priest "by chance" comes upon the man stripped, robbed, beaten and left for dead. It was not a divine appointment as such. It wasn't something to pray about or feel led to respond to. The only reason to consider helping was closeness. Proximity. He was there and the guy needed help. The Levite's situation is introduced with the term "likewise" meaning "in the same manner". They both just walked away and eliminated the proximity.

3. The neighbor is the one who helps. The one who helps here is an ethnically impure person in the eyes of the Jews (Did he say black???) who had a messed up religeon (You mean like a Jehovah's Witness or something!!) who is close, sees the need and doesn't turn and walk away. Our church is all white but we live in a black & white neighborhood in a black & white town. Neighbors are determined by proximity not color, religeon, race or any other criteria.

Who's your neighbor?