Redefining Your Neighbor
Posted in Evangelism
“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10: 29-37
A few weeks ago, I was driving early one morning from Columbia to North Carolina for a meeting. I’ve never been much into podcasts, but I’ve found myself listening to them more lately to “better myself,” which contrasts with the normal musical lineup of Michael Bublé, beach music, etc. You know, what every normal 31 year old listens to. So after the NPR podcast of the day, I tuned into Andy Stanley. Like many evangelists, Andy has a great way of presenting a lesson or story. I found this lesson so powerful that I had to share it with our Eastminster congregation.
Many of you know the Greatest Commandment, and many of you know the story of the Good Samaritan. However, have you ever stopped to think about their connection, specifically as it relates to what “neighbor” means? Loving our neighbor is not a new concept when Jesus explains it within the Greatest Commandment. In fact, it dates back to Leviticus chapter 19. Here, while the concept is admirable, “neighbor” is intended to mean a person like oneself. In this case, a fellow Israelite. In those times, it’s safe to say many Israelites lived similarly. However, when hard times fell upon them, God called them to “not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Fast forward to Luke. A lawyer, trying to catch Jesus off guard, or even trick him, asks about the Greatest Commandment. After what seems like a crystal clear response from Jesus, the lawyer continues with, “And who is my neighbor?” The story that follows teaches us that our neighbor is anyone and everyone. Regardless of race, creed, religion, background, wealth, and so on, everyone is our neighbor. While you might agree with this fully, do you practice it? I sure don’t. When you see someone down and out, what do you do? Do you assess how similar you are and then decide if you have the time or energy to extend your hand? Or do you respond like the Good Samaritan?
Friends, Jesus redefined what neighbor means to us. He did this so that we can live in a world of love, respect, and harmony. While this concept becomes more radical each day, be different. Love your neighbor.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that teaches us to love and respect our neighbors around the world. Help us keep that in the forefront of our minds as we encounter your children each day. Amen.
Submitted by Peyton Bryant