Passage – Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins 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.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The Good Samaritan
As we come to a familiar parable it is easy for us to lose its initial impact. How do you think the expert of the the law felt after Jesus responded to him?
He would have been offended as Jesus just attacked the leaders of his religion and made his enemy the hero.
Think of this parable for us today:
The man walking is like the world those who don’t know Jesus.
The robbers an image of satan, attacking and destroying the world, leaving with no hope, running away happy with his work.
The Priest and Levite Walking past the man. The church now, walking past the needs of the world.
How can we the church who know God and who are called to act on behalf of and for the benefit of the world just walk by?
Is this fair?
Do we make excuses and look to justify ourselves like the expert in the law?
As we think about this parable does the Holy Spirit want to offend us? Mercy, compassion and love are heart issues, it’s all about heart. Today we need to be cut to the heart in order to change our hearts.
If we are not actively loving our neighbour it means there is something wrong with our relationship with God.
As we seek to introduce other to Jesus this passage is important. Out of the Heart for God flows a Heart for others.
Who are our neighbours?
Love in community: a vision of a flourishing life
Earlier we talked about how, today, it is Christians who are often seen as the opponents of love. Within post-Christendom generally the Christian church faces a crisis of credibility, ‘out on its own’, now the prop of a supportive wider culture has been removed. This reality poses a deep challenge for the mission of the church, but is one that should be welcomed. The only ‘strategy’ the church has is renewal from within – to be a compelling testimony to the power and beauty of love, which overflows into the world. We can tinker all we like with externals like vision and mission statements, new programmes and ministries, attractive facilities, good-quality coffee, charismatic leaders, excellence in preaching, precise theological orthodoxy and so on, but unless churches are attractive communities of compelling love reflecting the self-giving character of our triune God, we are wasting our time. Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to be known for scandalous and unpredictable love, a love that loves for love’s sake rather than for any other agenda. Love is the ‘evidence’ that the Christian faith truly ‘works’ and leads to a life of human flourishing.33 Love for others in both Testaments shares the same theological foundation, the imitation of God – a point that has surfaced at various points in parts 1 to 4. It is as they imitate God that God’s people will reflect his beauty to the rest of the world. However, as with the previous two strands of love in the Bible, we see both continuity and discontinuity in the story of ‘horizontal love’. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ summarizes how Israel was to be a community of justice. That justice was even to overflow beyond the boundaries of Israel: ‘The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’ As discussed earlier, this command to love the foreigner is reiterated in Deuteronomy but with the additional rationale that Israel is to love this way because Yahweh ‘defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner’. In the New Testament we see this same pattern of divine imitation but with a revolutionary new perspective because neighbour-love is comprehensively reimagined in the light of the life, teaching and death of Jesus Christ.Mitchel, Patrick. The Message of Love (The Bible Speaks Today Themes) (pp. 261-262). IVP.
If we say, “Everyone is my neighbor,” it can become an excuse for avoiding the implications of following the Great Commandment. Our “neighbors” become defined in the broadest of terms. They’re the people across town, the people who are helped by the organizations that receive our donations, the people whom the government helps. We don’t have to feel guilty, we tell ourselves. After all, we can’t be expected to really love everybody, can we? The problem is, however, that when we aim for everything, we hit nothing.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p.34). Baker Publishing Group.
That’s how neighboring starts in our hearts—we develop flexibility and compassion. But unfortunately we are often moving too fast to notice that those who are right around us need a good neighbor. We may not pass by an accident and have an opportunity to serve as a paramedic, but we are invited to adjust our schedules to accommodate those in need who are nearby. Perhaps the needs of our neighbors can be met simply by opening our home, grilling some hamburgers, and letting a guy sit on our couch and play our guitar. We can begin by noticing that we have neighbors, people who at the moment are nameless and faceless.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p.34). Baker Publishing Group.
Slowly we began to care for the people in our apartment complex. It wasn’t that we were professional counselors and had all the answers to everyone’s problems. We simply started to get to know the people that God had placed around us. We started having real conversations with them and they with us. Remember, it’s easy to become numb to the Great Commandment. If we aren’t careful, we can take the most important teaching of Jesus and turn it into a catchy saying that we don’t live out. And in doing so, we become immune to its impact on our lives and the lives of others. We miss out on the life that Jesus has come to give us.
Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p.41). Baker Publishing Group.
We must resist the temptation to separate gospel words from gospel works. Social justice, like evangelism, isn’t something we can leave to the so-called ‘experts’. And that’s because it is, in fact, a fundamental part of the Good News of Jesus Christ – which we all have the responsibility of sharing. Social justice is embedded in the very message itself. God is on the side of those who have no one else to help them. And so our words must always be matched by our actions. Remember, we are not only to speak the Good News; we are to be the Good News. We must never allow a separation between lip and life, between proclamation and demonstration. We cannot be authentic disciples of Jesus if we fail to show the compassion of Jesus. It is true that some within the Church will have a particular calling to either the demonstration or proclamation of the gospel and this will find expression in passion and gifting. But this is not a licence to let the rest of us off the hook. Such people are to be ‘prophetic irritants’ in the body of Christ, provoking each one of us to play our part. Jesus said (in Matthew 25:37–40):
‘Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and go to visit you?” ‘The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me.”’
As Christians, we are called to struggle against everything that condemns people to a sub-human existence – such as hunger, disease, poverty, inequality, exploitation, abuse and injustice. The struggle itself tells a story about the God we serve. When the BBC presented a series based on a popular survey The 100 Greatest Britons it was interesting to note which Christians made it onto the list: John Wesley, William Wilberforce, William Booth and Florence Nightingale. Also, when an international research organisation carried out a worldwide survey on ‘leaders who made a difference and whom you could not ignore’, Mother Teresa came first and Archbishop Desmond Tutu second. All these people were characterised and compelled by a faith in Christ that was demonstrated in social action. Compassion and justice is a language the world understands and is deeply evangelistic. People can argue against proclamation, but cannot ignore a demonstration of the love of God.John, J.. The Natural Evangelism Course . Philo Trust.
Jesus’ storied answer of a Samaritan’s practical love for a Jewish enemy, compared to the failure of a priest and Levite to show compassion, switches focus to the deeper issue of what acting like a neighbour means. This is made explicit in his question at the end of the parable, Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (36). The expert cannot evade the obvious answer: The one who had mercy [eleos] on him (37). Jesus’ command to Go and do likewise (37) summarizes what the expert must do to inherit eternal life – show mercy and love to anyone in need regardless of their identity.
The Samaritan’s actions perfectly fulfil the requirements of enemy-love described in the Sermon on the Plain and summarized in 6:35. He had compassion (33, esvuk) for the beaten victim. He does good to him, gets his own hands ‘dirty’ in the process and, unlike the priest or Levite, puts his own needs second by taking the risk to help in an obviously dangerous situation. He spends money generously on a man who has been robbed and cannot pay him back. And he does all this for someone very different from himself, bridging centuries of hatred, suspicion and alienation in the process. It is this sort of love that reveals the attitudes and behaviour characteristic of an authentic disciple.
Such love does not pretend profound differences do not exist but rather, in the face of stark divisions, says I love you as I would wish to be loved.Mitchel, Patrick. The Message of Love (The Bible Speaks Today Themes) (pp. 169-170). IVP. Kindle Edition.
From the Samaritan we see what Mercy and Compassion involves:
- We See
- We Approach
- We Care
- We Take to help
- We Provide for
As we seek to be good neighbours it has a cost to us:
And wonderfully we see all of this demonstrated for us in Jesus.
As we seek to be good Neighbours here are some pointers to challenge and encourage us
A friend of ours, Brian Mavis, recently said something to us that resonated. “In this life, we can do only a few things really well; I think it’s a good idea to make certain that one of those things is what Jesus says is most important.”Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p.50). Baker Publishing Group.
The Good, for the Great
In Luke 10 there’s a story that points to a better way. Right after the story of the good Samaritan is one about Mary and Martha, two sisters who invite Jesus and some of his disciples into their home for a meal.
Similarly, if we’re going to love our neighbors well, we, like Mary, must go against the grain. We must make time to listen carefully to the teachings of Jesus in the Great Commandment. Our purpose in life is to love God and love others. That may mean that sometimes we need to forego some good things to devote time and energy to better things, the main things—loving God and loving our neighbors. Living a hurried, frantic lifestyle is the opposite of what Jesus wants for our lives. Author John Ortberg has coined the phrase “hurry sickness.” As he says, “Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is the one thing hurried people don’t have.”Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (pp.51-53). Baker Publishing Group.
More Time Today
If relationships are a priority, then what are some ways we can truly devote time to them? Perhaps much of your time is focused on building relationships with others based primarily on convenience: soccer parents, co-workers, or a small group of longtime friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Quite frankly, if you’re working at all on building connections with others, working on these relationships is a step in the right direction. But we must also keep learning what it means to interpret the Great Commandment literally. In other words, we have to stop making it about what’s only convenient to us and our often self-serving interpretation of the commandment. Instead we must start seeing our literal neighbors for who they are—our neighbors.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p. 53). Baker Publishing Group.
Make the Main Thing the Main Thing
Making the main thing the main thing means taking time to reflect on what is most important in your life and then scheduling around those things. Be intentional about planning your life around the priorities you identify. This might mean planning time to just hang out on your block.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p. 54). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Eliminate Time Stealers
Don’t be afraid to say no to time stealers that get in the way of your top priorities. Not many people would say that watching TV, surfing the web, or playing video games truly enhances their life. These pastimes aren’t evil, just useless. We have to learn how to stop wasting time with the activities that contribute nothing positive to our life. To do so, you have to learn the art of elimination; sometimes saying no is the best thing you can do.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (p.55). Baker Publishing Group.
The idea of being interruptible is being willing to be inconvenienced. It means developing a mind-set that accepts the interruptions of others. This might not feel natural at first, but it’s part of living at a healthy pace.Pathak, Jay; Runyon, Dave. The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside your Door (pp.55-56). Baker Publishing Group.
Questions to consider for personal study or in Life Groups.
- When you read Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, which character do you resonate with most? Why is that?
- When you look at the Samaritans actions, what neighbourly characteristics does he show and what do you think about them?
- Do you think this story still presents a challenge to our world now? If so, how?
- Think of a time when you experienced help? How did receiving this help make you feel? Change the way things were going? Or help you in that particular moment?
- How might this story impact us in introducing Him to others on our frontlines?
As I reflect what have I found interesting?
As I reflect what has challenged my life, attitudes and actions?
Is there one practical step I can apply to my life to help me to become more like Jesus?
How would this help me to introduce others to Jesus?
Is there there anything I need to pray about, explore further or extra help I need?
Is there someone I should share with, pray with or encourage?