Love Your Neighbor

Prior to President Trump’s Executive Order which affected visitors from seven Muslim majority nations, I had been planning to focus upon the second greatest commandment.

I begin by saying this, because I don’t want my pulpit to be a political pulpit, but the stage on which the Word of God is PROCLAIMED.

What caused me to want to focus on this theme is the fact that the term “neighbor” has truly a multi-faceted meaning.

It is more than a person who lives near us, but is really someone who breaths the same air as us.

Neighbor

-someone who breathes the same air as us.

SAMARITANS & JEWS

In Jesus’ day, there was a huge racial divide between the Samaritans and the Jews.

On one hand, the Samaritans could not help who they were. They were victims of a forced immigration policy by a foreign government.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been conquered by the Assyrian empire in 722 BC and part of their foreign policy was to forcibly exile people throughout their empire. Many Hebrews were moved to other parts of the empire, and, people from all around that empire were joined the remnant of Israelites who still lived there.

These people brought their religions with them.

By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans had returned, partly, toward the God of the Old Testament. They only accepted Moses’ books as Scripture, and they had their own place of worship: Mt. Gerizim.

When Jesus had a conversation with a woman from Samaria, she asked him where were people supposed to worship the One True God, in Jerusalem, or on Mount Gerizim in Samaria.

This was a very important question to the Samaritans, because in time, they tried to follow the One True God. The Samaritans had built their own temple on Mt. Gerizim, but about 150 years before Jesus’ ministry, the Jews invaded Samaria and destroyed it.

They were insulted by this other religion that was similar to theirs, but not complete.

They did not build bridges, but they burned them, and the rift between the Samaritans and the Jews grew even more hostile.

That is part of the background of this story. The Jews discriminated against the Samaritans, and the Samaritans had been victimized against in an extremely unjust manner.

TESTING OF JESUS

In Jesus’ day, he was tested by the experts in the Law, the top theologians of his day.

This was not a bad thing, in that if Jesus couldn’t pass their tests, then he would not really be who he said he was.

As well, when he was tested, he also tested those who tested him.

Once an expert in the law asked what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.

Jesus didn’t give him the answer we might have expected, to believe in him in order to be saved.

This is what Jesus told another teacher of the Law named Nicodemus.

But instead, Jesus asked the man to answer the question himself.

When the expert listed the two greatest commandments, Jesus told him that he had answered correctly.

But, the man wanted to justify himself.  He wanted to complete his task of testing Jesus, so he asked another question.

He didn’t ask, “who is God,” for that was obvious.

But he asked the question, “who is my neighbor.”

Instead of saying, “everyone is your neighbor,” Jesus told a story. It was a parable,

which means a story in life that is told to tell a truth.

In the case of Jesus, he told stories that led people to an understanding of God, His Kingdom and His Will.

Let’s look at the passage of Scripture, today, from 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 was attacked by 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, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 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.’

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.”

Luke 10:25-37

The Title of My Message today is, “Love Your Neighbor.”

  1. When We Ignore Our Neighbor, We Are Not Following Jesus

This is called the “Parable of the Good Samaritan,” but that misses the point. Samaritans were not considered to be “good” to Jesus’ audience. Perhaps a better name would be the

“Parable that Jesus Put in the Face of Nationalistic Judaism in Order to Answer the Question: ‘Who Is My Neighbor?’”

We have benefitted from “good Samaritans” at times.

ILLUSTRATION OF BEING A “GOOD SAMARITAN” (Part One)

I recall a time when we were the Good Samaritan.

Clover and I were driving to North Carolina. This was in 2010 and we were using GPS to go the fastest route to the obscure little town that we needed to get to.

While driving, we wondered why we didn’t stay on the main roads, especially when a big storm came up.

But then we saw an opportunity: A young university student had run off the road, and her SUV was stuck in a ditch. She would need a tow truck to get out. We stopped to offer any assistance.

It was a great feeling to be the Good Samaritan.

The Story that Luke presents to us is actually two stories:

  • Dialogue between an expert in the Law and Jesus
  • The Parable

The Parable is what is often remembered, and that is good. I believe that this parable contains the essence of Jesus’ teaching on the subject of “Love Your Neighbor.”

In the Parable, there are several characters:

-A Man

-Robbers

-Priest

-Levite

-Samaritan

-Inn Keeper

The man is the victim.

The Robbers were small businessmen J

When Jesus told this story, people knew that the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was dangerous and there were thieves and robbers there.

The Inn Keeper, too, was a small businessman.

When Jesus asks the expert in the law who was a neighbor to the victim, he asks which of the three, and he is meaning the Priest, Levite and Samaritan.

The Priest and the Levite were those whom one would expect to help the victim, but they were able to ignore him.

I’ve been a “priest” and “Levite,” sort of, for many years. I’ve been involved in regular volunteer ministry since 1980, and was licensed to preach in 1991.

I know what it is like to spend all of my time ministering, and not have time to minister.

Early on in my ministry as a pastor, I learned the value of putting my family ahead of ministry. That didn’t mean that I was the perfect father or husband, but I didn’t want my family to resent ministry. I wanted them to love ministry and participate with me.

Jesus didn’t say why the Priest and the Levite failed to be a neighbor to the wounded man, which is good, because we can consider many different reasons as we apply this story to our own lives.

It could just be due to what I call Basic Weaknesses, which I have been guilty of, too.

Basic Weaknesses

-Too busy

-Too tired

-Too weak

-Too preoccupied

-Expect someone else to serve in our places

These basic weaknesses are SEEMINGLY excusable, and are often done without giving much thought.

We hear that there is a need to help someone, but we have too much going on, or we just don’t have the strength to help.

There are many others who could do a better job than us, we think.

But, really, we need to not allow these basic weaknesses to overpower us and block us from doing good.

There are basic weaknesses and then there are the greater weaknesses.

Greater Weaknesses

-Too greedy

-Too nationalistic

-Too righteous

-Too fearful

GREED

Greed plays a part. It could be in this story, that if the Priest of Levite helped the man, then they would not have been able to serve at their jobs and would not be paid.

Greed comes in political forms today, too.

NATIONALISM & PREJUDICE

Nationalism and even prejudice: I was surprised at something I heard regarding the Turkish churches, recently. Since there are so many Arab refugees everywhere, the churches have been trying to help. But they are overwhelmed. So now they are saying, “Turks, only.” And they only want to help their own.

The church of Turkey is very small and weak. Perhaps only 5000 Turkish believers out of 75,000,000 people.

But in the beginning of the church, it was wrong to assert the preeminence of one ethnic group over another, and the first churches in Turkey were international churches (multi-ethnic).

Perhaps the Priest and Levite assumed this victim had been a foreigner, so they just left him alone.

SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS/ RELIGIOUSNESS

We sometimes are too righteous or too religious to serve people.

Being so religious that our hearts are closed to the needs around us, is not what God intends.

Remember, God doesn’t ask us to save ourselves.

If He expected that, then He would have made us super-human, but He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us.

Therefore, when we do good works or perform religious acts, we do these because of Who God Is.

We do good things because we are saved, not in order to be saved.

FEAR

  • Fear prevents us from doing the right thing, also.
  • We are afraid because of our perceptions.
  • Our perceptions are formed by what we look at.
  • If we are told that something is bad and scary, then we will believe it is bad and scary.
  • But if we take our fears to God, then He will change our ways.

God can turn our fears around if we let Him.

We need to not fear evil, because God is with us.

As we looked at the Lord’s Prayer last week, Jesus taught us to pray:

“Deliver us from the evil one.”

Matthew 6:13

  1. Loving Our Neighbor Can Be Challenging

As I mentioned, there are two stories in the passage of Scripture that we looked at today:

-The Test

-The Parable

Jesus did not fall into a trap with the test, but instead, he trapped the Expert in the Law.

After the story, Jesus asked,

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.”

Luke 10:36, 37

Notice that the Expert in the Law doesn’t answer with the term, “Samaritan,” but with the description of the Samaritan.

Jesus tells him to go and do likewise.

ILLUSTRATION OF BEING A “GOOD SAMARITAN” (Part Two)

Remember I told you that Clover and I were able to help a young lady several years ago.

Her car was in a ditch and she was awaiting a tow truck. 

When we pulled up to help her, she put down her window. However, the angle of the car was such that she couldn’t hear us. So she put her window up, and got out of the car.

She told us that she had called for a tow truck, and she was waiting. So, we didn’t think that there was anything we could do.

Sadly, however, when she got out of her SUV, the door closed (remember, it was at a strange angle) and she locked her keys in the car.

We felt awful that we had come to help her, but had made matters worse.

Then it started to rain. We invited her to sit in our car, but she must have been afraid, so we gave her our umbrella and waited for the tow truck.

In the process, due to the rain and other things, I became wet and muddy, so I had to buy a new pair of trousers when I arrived at the town where I was preaching.

It’s funny, but I think we sometimes don’t help people because we are afraid that we are not qualified or that we will make a bigger mess for them.

Sometimes we don’t help people because we think we are not qualified and might make a bigger mess.

But, God calls us to join in the experiences of life, and walk with people.

I recall when I was trying to buy a home in Kazakhstan, and we had to spend so much time in very long lines. We could have paid bribes in order to get through faster, but we didn’t want to do that.

After several weeks, we were finally able to buy the home (it was cheaper than renting).

I remember one day when I was getting ready to teach at a Bible School, and I was so exhausted. The interpreter asked me, “why are you so tired?”

When I told him that I had been standing in long lines every day to get this form that would enable me to get that signature, for that process…it was endless red-tape and bureaucracy.”

His response was, “now you know what we go through… And you did this in 2 weeks without paying a bribe? That is a miracle.”

God calls us to live life with our neighbors and to get to know them. He calls us to walk with our neighbors.

God calls us to love Him and to Love our neighbor.

How the Samaritan’s Actions Affected Himself: 

-He was late for his appointment

-He had a financial loss

-He became Ceremonially unclean

-It was Uncomfortable

-He acted as a servant (which is humbling)

Out of our love for God, we need to love our neighbor, and as followers of Jesus, we are not really following Him unless we love our neighbor.

I like how Author and Pastor Francis Chan puts it:

“Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter unless it is about loving God and loving the people He made.”

Francis Chan

Let us be people who show our love to our neighbor.

Our theme this month is love your neighbor.

But that really should be our theme, every month, as well as Love the Lord Our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

APPLICATION:

Now, in conclusion, Let’s consider another story….our story!

Who will be reached with the Gospel because we stoop in humility and service to those around us?

God Knows, and He wants to Dispatch us to do it.

I want to ask us to take some time in prayer to apply this message to our lives.

How can each of us, individually, show love to our neighbors?

How can we as a church show love to our neighbors?

We have an outreach plan of visiting with our neighbors and asking for their prayer requests.

This is an opportunity for us to physically reach out to our immediate neighbors.

It gives our church a chance to pray.

Thus, there is a connection between us, our neighbors and God.

Then, inviting those who do not have a church to come to a dinner here at the church.

Of course we invite them to come to our church, but to invite them to come to a dinner is a way to show them love and give them something that they need, a meal.

Let’s take time to think of whom we will invite, and how to reach out to them.

Let’s Pray

 

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Sermons, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s