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The Art of Neighboring - Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series on "The Art of Neighboring" by looking at Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18.  This is the passage where God commanded the Israelites to "Love your neighbor as yourself."

This passage has been called the fundamental definition of what it meant for Israel to be a holy nation.  Religion and how we treat our neighbor cannot be separated.

Who is our neighbor?

There was commentary and debate about this question in this passage.  From verse 10, it suggests even the poor and foreigners were included.  But from verse 17-18, some argued that it only meant fellow Israelites.

Jesus spoke to this question with the parable of the Good Samaritan.  His answer:

Our neighbor is anyone near us in need.

Why care?  What's our motivation for loving our neighbor?

God answers this question over and over in the passage:  Because "I am the Lord."

God is holy, so we must be.

God's holiness is the standard of His people's behavior and the foundation of their behavior.

We don't treat our neighbors with kindness to get more friends, to be more respected, or even because they need us.

We reach out to our neighbors because they're created by God.

God is our motivation.

We get caught up in ourselves and our own story.  It's not about us.  It's about God and what He wants for us.

The reason we act with kindness toward our neighbors is because of God.

How do we neighbor well?

This passage gives a practical list of ways to do that.  

Be generous and truthful.  Don't steal or take advantage of people.  Act with justice.  And so on.

Summary:  We love our neighbors as ourselves.

These aren't only about behavior.  They also are about how we feel -- don't hate, don't bear a grudge, and so on.

We should plan and strategize to help meet our neighbors' needs.  (Example is leaving part of the harvest to be gleaned.  That takes planning.)

Try to strategize to actively reach out to your neighbors.

With that in mind, we finished the service by meeting in groups with other people from our neighborhoods and prayed together for them.  And we're encouraged to actively look for ways to reach out.

The Art of Neighboring - The Good Samaritan

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his series on The Art of Neighboring by looking at the parable of the Good Samaritan told by Jesus in Luke 10:25-37.

He began by looking at the expert in the law's question.  He was wrongheaded about eternal life.  It's not about DOing the right thing.  (See John 5:24 and 6:47.)

Jesus seems to be emphasizing the quality of life more than the quantity in "eternal" life.  The Greek word means "of the ages" and can be referring more to a quality of life than a long unspecified period of time.  

We tend to think about what God wants from us.  Jesus continually talks about what God wants for us.

Jesus makes himself central to the whole discussion of life "of the ages."  (See John 5:39 and 6:40.)  He is the key to having all that God wants for us.

But Jesus makes a different point for the lawyer, knowing what he needs to grapple with.  It's the same thing we of northern Virginia need to look at.

The question "Who is my neighbor?" comes at it from the wrong end.  Jesus straightens him out with some challenges.

Jesus' challenges to us:

-- Expand your moral circle.

We're compelled to open up to people in need, not to keep people out.  It's easy, though, to close our hearts down.

The Samaritan wasn't thinking about whether the traveler was his "kind," but only about kindness.

-- Eliminate unhelpful categories.

Political discussion today is predicated on categories.  We're determined to categorize people.

Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the hero - in a category for devout Jews of someone hated and despised.

Act with kindness and mercy to those near you regardless of category.  Don't use a category as an excuse.

If you have the resources to live in northern Virginia, you're on the "right" side of most categories.  Be sensitive to that.  And don't hold back your kindness.

-- Embody mercy.

If necessary, use your own means to meet the needs of people near you.

When we see need, we are the kind of people who embody mercy.

That's what the Samaritan did.

If Jesus were to tell the parable today to have the same effect, he might have a conservative talk radio host in a ditch by the side of the road in the snow.  The pastor of Gateway drives right by.  Then an elder from Gateway comes by and changes lanes to get further away from it.  But then a cross-dressing gay guy stops and gets him out of the ditch and pays for a tow truck and medical care.

That's the kind of neighbor we should be.

Assignment:

Continue to pray for your neighbors.

Ask to see need in the midst of your busyness.

Ask for the courage to act with mercy.

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