Posted on November 3, 2016 by Curt Snyder
Growing up in a very small town where my grandparents and parents owned and operated a small general merchandise store, I had the pleasure of basically knowing most everyone in our community. They shopped there, socialized there and often times just hung out there. For the most part everyone knew everyone and with that looked out and cared for each other in the process. Genuine relationships and community were the norm.
However, as the world expanded and localized community began to shift to more globalized community, this idea of true neighbors and care began to erode and disappear. Now with technology and communication as it is, what once was nearly impossible has become the new normal and it has blurred the lines of “who is my neighbor”. But that question isn’t a new phenomenon. Jesus himself was asked this question by a religious leader of his day.
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?” – Luke 10:25-29
But apparently that answer wasn’t enough so the leader, in an effort to justify his self-centered thinking, asked “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
As Jesus unfolded his answer to the man’s question he spoke right to the issue; and in his parable he took those who should have been the first to respond to the need and have the greatest understanding of who our neighbor is and showed them as the most indifferent. Then he took the most unlikely character and demonstrated what true care and compassion looked like.
Here’s the catch! We would love to think that we more reflect the attitude and actions of the Samaritan, but the harsh reality is that, more times than not, we are closer to the two religious leaders and their actions toward the man who was in crisis. We actually get as far away from the problem as we possibly can rather than getting involved in the need at hand.
You see, because of this thing called sin in each of our lives the tendency is to separate ourselves, to become insulated from the events around us and to look out for me first; but that is counter to what Jesus said we should be about. He said first we love God with everything in us and then we are to love people; and to be honest, you can’t truly love God with everything if you don’t love people.
Everyday you and I will encounter people who are in need. It may not be as critical as the man in Jesus’ story but in their life it is a crisis. Will we truly become the hands and feet of God by stepping into people’s lives and demonstrating the love of God to those who are far away from him? What steps can you take today to become that demonstration of God’s love?
Can you make this your prayer today? “God help me to see the needs of people around me. Would you let me see with your eyes, hear with your ears and feel with your heart so that I can see the need in peoples’ lives? And would you give me the courage to step into the situations I encounter and be a real demonstration of your love to others. Amen.”