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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Its Not Who They Are But Who You Are That Makes a Neighbor

Luke 10:30-37 (ESV)
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

A friend of mine told me of sitting in a Sunday School class years ago with a teacher who taught this lesson thus: "Now I consider Joe here my neighbor because he lives in the same subdivision, but Larry lives three miles away and he couldn't really be considered a neighbor. So I need to help Joe and let others help Larry."

The friend asked, "So, let me get this straight. You think that location is what this story is about?"

"Yeah, that's what I think." My friend decided that he could teach Sunday School after that. He's been teaching ever since. I hope his former Sunday School teacher either did a little more study or quit teaching altogether.

A expert in the law asked Jesus who was his neighbor. Jesus gave a very interesting answer. He changed the whole paradigm of who a neighbor is.

A neighbor is not  one is merely of the same faith. The priest and the Levite did nothing for the injured man. A neighbor is not someone who lives close by. The Samaritan was from a different country and passing through.

A neighbor is one who feels compassion on those who are hurting and have no means to repaying what is done for them. Many people don't want to help those who are disadvantaged but many people in our church stock a food pantry for people who are without the means of paying for food. Many of them have lost their jobs or are disabled in some way. Their condition may be temporary but those who help them do not expect to be repaid. They simply help these people and prove to be their neighbors.

A neighbor is one who isn't looking to be thanked. He simply helps. In fact, he helps beyond what can be expected of anyone regardless of what it cost. He takes immediate care and care for the future.

I suppose the expert in the law was looking for the limit of what he must do. Following Jesus has nothing to do with limits. Obeying Jesus has nothing to do with limits. Loving Jesus has nothing to do with limits.

A neighbor is one who acts because of who he is. He doesn't think what his obligation is. He has true compassion.

The man who was hurt may have not considered the Samaritan a neighbor but the Samaritan proved he was the neighbor to the man.

Are you a neighbor?


Craig Godfrey said...

This parable used to bug me a lot.
Mainly because I was annoyed at how the liberal denominations pick this up and try to justify it as a form of works righteousness.
Then I heard a teaching that unlocked the meaning behind it, and literally blew my mind.
The real key is in understanding how the story is framed. The lawyer asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Stupid question, as we don't do anything, we just have to wait until someone dies. Jesus knew this, so he asks the lawyer what he believed. He quoted from the law, and Jesus said he was right.
But that didn't satisfy him, hence why it says he was trying to justify himself. Why did he do that? Because he was trying to fulfill the law, and Jesus was basically saying 'good luck with that'.
The lawyer asks who his neighbour was, meaning 'how can I find more ways of fulfilling the law.
After telling the story Jesus asked him who his neighbour was, and he said 'the one who showed him mercy', and Jesus said 'go and do likewise.
Question: who is my neighbour?
Answer: the one who shows me mercy is my neighbour.
Moral of the story: Go and do likewise - go and look for the one who shows you mercy.

Should we help others? Absolutely!
But this is not a story about helping others. This is a beautiful picture of the law and the gospel. We are the ones beaten and dying at the side of the road. The law can't save us. We need to look for Jesus, for he has fulfilled the law, so can justifiably save us.

I hope I'm making sense!

Anthony Chia said...

Well said.

A neighbour is one who has compassion, and ACTS in releasing that compassion; and rightly said, extending compassion does NOT expect repayment. What is done is NOT obligation owed to the person we help.

Can a non-believer have compassion? Well, that story of the Good Samaritan shows us that any man can have a certain degree of compassion. And there are non-believers who are compassionate people; yet having compassion alone cannot qualify one to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

God is the knower of hearts, and that included the heart of non-believers, and Scripture indicates to us, through the account of the centurion, Cornelius' conversion, that God does take note of compassionate non-believers, yet that same account, also indicated to us that conversion is still needed for eternal life. It is wrong of people, and sadly, even some Christian (this includes the Catholics) preachers, to suggest compassionate people can get to Heaven without having to believe in Jesus Christ.

Works of compassion as works per se alone cannot qualify one to Heaven. Yet believers without any compassion and so, without works to testify to his having compassion, goes to show, though they are justified, they are NOT identified with The Lord.

Truly greatly compassionate non-believers are NOT many, bearing in mind what true compassion is. True compassion is without expectation of recompense and like true love is NOT self-seeking. But believers have the capacity to be truly and greatly compassionate, for they have a truly and greatly compassionate Lord. When believers are truly identified with The Lord, and so, they are abiding in The Lord and The Lord abiding them, the compassion of The Lord flows through them.

For believers, compassion is also about obedience and love. It is NOT location or physical proximity, though, whenever a situation needing compassion to be rendered is staring at us, as a believer, we cannot ignore it. The Story of the Good Samaritan illustrated that. But compassion can be called for, in situations that has nothing to do location or physical proximity; rather, we are expected to be rendering compassion out of our love for, and so, obedience to, The Lord.

For example, when the Holy Spirit prompt you (in US or in Singapore) to pray for the people of Haiti because an earthquake has happened, you do that. It happened to me in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. I loved The Lord, and so, I obeyed (this is the love The Lord expects - you love Him, you obey Him - John 14:15, 21) and in compassion I prayed. And it is in compassion, for i have no obligation to the people of Haiti, and I don't expect anything in return, and I seek nothing for myself for doing the act; I merely obeyed The Lord for I loved The Lord. The beautiful thing was that I was healed in my body when I was praying for the Haiti people in affliction. I was not self-seeking, and so, it was compassion, yet out of the goodness of The Lord, He healed my body, too.


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. From above

Ps Prentis said, "A neighbor is one who acts because of who he is."
Indeed, it is so, and for a believer, who is he? He is one identified with The Lord, abides in The Lord, and so, have The Lord abides in Him, and so, is one who is Christ-like.

In these few years, as I allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit, instead of by the flesh (I tried my best), and so, as He developed the fruit of the Spirit in me, He has taught 3 things that I have to remember. They are (1) that I am to step into His Word, and as I do that, He, Jesus, will step into my life, and that I will be Christ Jesus on earth once more, for the moment; (2) there is the quiet grace of God and there is the exceeding grace of God, and I do need to pray for the exceeding grace of God for people; (3) I am to live my life in such a way that The Lord is pleased to render His attending presence with me. Who are we? We are to be Christ Jesus, for people, which is another way of saying, people should be able to see Jesus in us; and the Jesus of the Bible is full of compassion.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Anthony Chia said...

In case, I get mistaken by people, when I say a neighbor is one who has compassion and acts in releasing that compassion, I am referring to how we can be a good neighbor to people. I believe this too, is what Ps Prentis is trying to say (correct me, if I get you wrong, Ps Prentis).

To the down trodden man in the story, who is his neighbor? The one who shown him the compassion or mercy - the Samaritan. There are two angles to the story:

One, how we can be good neighbor to our neighbours. How? We treat our neighbors with compassion and mercy. If we act like the Levite or The priest in the story, instead, then, we should NOT be surprised that our neighbors say this of us, "What horrible neighbor!"

Two, Jesus was saying, anyone who is in need that you come across or cross your path, so to speak, he is your neighbor, you are to have compassion for the person. Now, I have expanded the "you come across" to include situation beyond the physical space, to anyone revealed to you by Holy Spirit, who is in need; such is also your neighbor.

Now, the story, in my view, is NOT about we are to consider someone as our neighbor only when he is one who is compassionate or merciful to us. In other words, we cannot go about the 2nd love commandment of "love thy neighbor" loving only those who is compassionate or merciful to us.

The story is about who we are to be like? The Levite? The Priest? Or Samaritan? It is about who are we to imitate. It was NOT intent to point to, the down trodden man, robbed and beaten up, represented us. It is about what would Jesus if He is here, will do for such an afflicted one. The Samaritan metaphored Jesus or represented Jesus. We, too, in our lives, people should be able to see Jesus in us. People will see Jesus in us when we act like Jesus or are Christ-like.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions