Luke 10:25-37 Who Is My Neighbor?
OPENING ILLUSTRATION: Have someone come to the baptistry before the sermon begins and lie down. The person stays there until near the end of the sermon. At the end of the sermon, I go over and ask if he is ok. I describe the fact that many times we don’t notice the person because we are so busy, or that if we notice, we don’t do something. (Ask if anyone had thought about getting up during the sermon and coming over to see if there was anything wrong.)
Have you ever heard of someone who neglected another person? Let me share with you a couple of examples:
Perhaps you have heard the problems that are going in Darfur. It is clear there that the needs of people are being neglected. Politically speaking, there has been much talk lately about the Western nations who have said that the problem is bad in Darfur. However, they have done nothing to help stop it. Colin Powell, Tony Blair, and the other EU nations, along with the UN Secretary-General have all said that the genocide in Darfur must stop. However, the only people who have come to help the poor people of Darfur are the African Union troops. There is simply not enough people who want to help others who have fallen victim to the thieves and robbers of the “Tutu” rebels.
Perhaps you have heard of the woman who was caught in her apartment with 300 dead cats. A woman from Federick, Maryland who was found living with more than 300 mostly dead cats pleaded guilty to 46 misdemeanor counts of neglect Tuesday, abruptly ending her trial on animal cruelty charges. She could have faced 11 years in jail and a $46,000 fine. Instead, she will receive no jail time, but will be supervised for three years.
Perhaps you have heard the fact according to UNICEF and Deutsche Welle that at least 10 percent of Germany’s children are being neglected. This means…
Perhaps you have heard of other stories where someone who was helpless, stayed helpless because of someone’s inaction.
The story of the “Good Samaritan” is that kind of story. Let us examine what is going in these verses. Then we will turn our attention to what causes this neglect, and then finally how we can change our attitudes toward people around us.
The “certain man” was apparently a Jew in this story. The religious folks act toward their Jew just like they would act toward Samaritans. “They walk around” him. That clearly means that the men could see the person who needed help. Yet, despite seeing a fellow Jew in need, for whatever excuses (“I have to get home before dark”, “I have to finish something important”, “I have a very important deadline.”) they choose to ignore him.
“The Samaritan” – the one whom you would think has nothing to offer, is rich. The Samaritan betrays all stereotypes.
Someone comes to Jesus and tells Jesus that he is a good religious person. He follows all of God’s ways. But in order to justify his attitude in how he acts toward other people, this expert in the law asks the question: “Who is my neighbor?”. Jesus tells this famous story, and in telling it, Jesus turns the normal situation around. It is the Jew who needs help, not the Samaritan. The Samaritan has priveleged status, not the Jew.
In this parable, the neighbor is not defined by locality – the person next door. The definition of a neighbor for me is someone whom has a need.
Instead of thinking about ourselves, Jesus forces us to start thinking about other people. Jesus points to our hearts and asks: “Do you care about anyone?” Jesus tells this story because he knows that everyone would understand the context. The road to Jerusalem from Jericho is a rough road. It would be like going to walk the roads of Darfur. It is rough and it is filled with thieves. So you are going to run into someone who has been attacked. You are going to see people who are hurt. Jesus asks:
What are you going to do about this person? Are you going to walk around him completely? Are you going to avoid this person whom you can help?
Jesus points to the problem that we all encounter. Jesus points to our “Sin of Indifference”.
We have laws that fight this “Sin of Indifference”. One is called the “Good Samaritan” law. It says that if you see someone hurt, and you are the only one there, you have to help. If you could do something, and you don’t, in some states in the US, as well as come countries in Europe, you could go to jail. However, this is for open and obvious neglect.
What Jesus points us to is our attitude toward other people whom we know have a need and whom we know we can help.
Your neighbor is potentially anyoone. The person whom God puts in your path who has a need. This person is your neighbor. Anyone, who has a need and who you can be Christ to, this is your neighbor. It doesn’t matter if they are not grateful to you or if they pay you back. It doesn’t matter what color they are, what clothes they wear, what religion they are. God will place people near you, and sometimes He will place them to see if you will come to them or not. God wants to know if you really care about other people.
Let me explain what I mean.
ILLUSTRATION: Electronic Door Opener
I have a problem at home. I have this electronic door opener with a loudspeaker. I think it is a neat device. I never had one in the US. But everywhere, the apartments and homes come with this device. I know it makes the home safer. And it works great – when it works. I have a problem with my electronic door opener, specifically with the loud speaker and microphone. Visitors who come to me will ring the bell, and they can talk to me. But I can’t talk to them. I can hear them, but they can’t hear me.
Therefore, I have a communication problem. I can hear the other person and I know that they need help. But they can’t hear. They don’t know if I can respond or not. The loud speaker is broke. I have a communication problem, because I can’t help the visitor.
I should fix what is broke with myself. I need to fix my communication problems, my misunderstanding, my neglect. Then I can help a person who is need much better. Part of the problem that exists with my neighbor is really me.
You see this guy here. He doesn’t have a problem. I have the problem. Yes, he is hurt (or at least looks like he is hurt and needs attention.) But I have been so preoccupied with my things, even my good holy things – preaching to you and reading the Bible verses – that I have not even noticed the other guy. What is Jesus saying here:
Stop focusing on yourself all the time. Stop trying act holy and be religious. Stop saying that you love God. Start acting like you love God. You do that when you stop thinking about yourself. Make the effort to notice other people and their needs. Now maybe you can’t meet these needs. But taking the focus off yourself and reaching out to other people. This is loving other people. God wants us to love Him. But He also wants us to love others just as equally.