How different would the parable of the Good Samaritan be today? If Jesus was asked in your country, “Who is my neighbor?” by someone claiming to follow Christian values, would the story be the same? I will take a chance and make changes to this well-known parable. I do not claim to know for a fact how Jesus would answer if He were physically walking the streets of your city or town and was asked this question. All I can say is my observations would lead me to believe that the following parable would not be out of line in Western culture and much of the developing world.
A Christian was walking along a dark street one night when he was attacked, beaten, robbed and left for dead.
Not much different than the Bible version, but it’s about to take a slightly different path!
A homeless man happened by. Due to his intoxicated state, he did not see the dying man. Tripping over the body, he staggered a few yards and fell to the ground. A group of church goers passed by after Bible study. Noticing the bloodied and beaten body on the side of the road, one of them said, “Hey, isn’t that Jim from the 9 a.m. service?”
“Yeah I think so,” another person replied. “Wonder what made him think it was safe to walk alone on these streets?”
Another person in the group piped up, “He should know better than to do something stupid like this; you’re going to end up just like that when you walk alone in this neighborhood.”
The first person asked the rest of the group, “Does anyone have a cell phone? Someone needs to call 9…” She stopped mid-sentence, interrupted by the sight of the drunken, stinky homeless man staggering to his feet. She points to him and says, “Here’s our chance to live out what we talked about in Bible study.” The group, as if they were all part of some animal herd, rush over to help the tipsy drinker, forgetting all about the dying man. They made sure the homeless guy didn’t fall and hurt himself, offered to take him to a local shelter, and invited him to church.
Who is my neighbor?
Looking outward from the church, it isn’t hard to find a people group or an individual to demonstrate love through some form of service. When it comes to demonstrating love and serving those in our church, we seem less eager to help but often quick to blame. Your neighbor is anyone who God puts in your life. There are not two categories of those we are called to love. There is no “he or she is a Christian and should know better” group that we leave alone while we help those who we say “need Jesus.” We all need Jesus. We all mess up. We all should know better, but we still go down the wrong road. Do I deserve God’s grace as much as the next guy? Does the next guy deserve God’s grace as much as you? All of us have done nothing to deserve God’s grace. We are all doomed by our sin, but God loves all people. He offers His grace to all people and gives it to those who believe in Him. We need to do the same. Unconditionally, we love just like God, whether the person should have known better or not.
There is an irony to the reasoning behind the programs that we believe serve our community…
…in a way that will peak their interest in the church. By showing how loving and caring Christians are, we hope that people will want to become part of our collective of Christ followers. What then? Are they still our neighbor? I would say, according to the Bible, they are. Anyone who we can love and care for is our neighbor. Just because you accept Christ as your personal Saviour and join a community of believers shouldn’t mean you no longer qualify for neighbor status. Sadly, love and caring are not often extended to those in the church by those in the church.
If the foundation of the church and our lives is love…
…and the foundation is tied into the footings (God) by loving God and loving others, then we must ask, are we fully secured to God? When you hear of divorce tearing apart a family, how do you respond? How does your church respond? When pornography becomes the main use of the internet for a fellow believer, what do you think of them? What does your church think of them? When a youth is arrested or a mother shoplifts, do you pass judgement on the act or the person? Does your church view the person with grace or contempt? Churches don’t split because of disagreements. Friends and family don’t have a falling out over different ways of doing things. Relationships are destroyed and churches ripped apart because love is not at the foundation. Love cares enough to correct but is patient enough to wait for the right outcome.
Love is often received poorly but still responds with kindness. Love wants others to have success and isn’t hurt when someone does better than another. Love has no desire to tell others how great it is. Love doesn’t mistreat people or set out to advance itself. It does not lose its cool when others let it down. Love doesn’t like evil things and isn’t happy when others do evil things. Love lives for the truth. Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Sound familiar? 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
Over the next few months I will be preaching a sermon series using my book Blueprint as a jumping off point. My posts will contain small sections from my book and a link to my sermon.