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.
Continue to pray for your neighbors.
Ask to see need in the midst of your busyness.
Ask for the courage to act with mercy.