"You shall know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free"
Publisher / Editor:
Paul Hayden

Who Is the Person in Your Neighborhood?

July 4, 2022

From time to time, most of us feel left out. We feel like misfits. Others seem so confident, so sure of themselves, “insiders” who know the ropes, old hands in a club from which we are excluded. So, what do the “outsiders” do? They form exclusive clubs too. 

The clubs range from informal to formal, generally based upon a theme. The members think, “Here is at least one place where I can belong, and those other people are out.” Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but ‘us.’ The price that we pay for these exclusive clubs is a reduction of reality, a shrinkage of life. Why? Our thing becomes everything, at least to us. 

In his introduction of the Gospel of Luke, author Eugene Peterson talks about this tendency in politics, cultures, nationalities, social clubs, economics, and religion. "But religion has a long history of doing just that, of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a membership."

Luke is the Gospel written for 'outsiders.' Luke was a vigorous champion of the 'outsider.' Why? He was an outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of the writers in the New Testament. He shows how Jesus included what the religious establishment would consider outsiders of the day: women, common laborers, the racially different Samaritans, the poor, and even the rich. 

Dr. Peterson writes, “As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.”

No parable in the Bible is more clarion about this idea than the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus wanted his audience to connect emotionally to the parable's characters. Jesus wanted his audience to think, “Who am I in this story?”

The Good Samaritan parable starts with a dialogue about eternal life with Jesus and a young religious scholar. Jesus quotes the Old Testament. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." The young scholar asked, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus responded with a parable. 

A man was walking on the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers beat him and robbed him. As he lay by the side of the road, stripped naked and dying, a Jewish priest came on the road, saw the man, walked around him, and continued his journey. Then another religious hotshot, a Levite, also came along and ignored the man. 

Then a Samaritan man came along, saw the robbed man, and felt compassion for him. So the Samaritan gave him first aid, bandaging and disinfecting his wounds. Next, he lifted the victim on his donkey, led him to an inn, and paid for his entire stay at the inn until he recovered. 

Jesus asked the young religious scholar, "Which of these three men was the victim's neighbor?" "The Samaritan," replied the scholar. Jesus said, "Go and do the same." The audience didn't expect that curve ball. The young scholar and the stunned audience received an 'Aha' that day. Remember, Samaritans were the bad guys to the Jewish people. They were the worst of the worst. Yet this Samaritan did what the religious establishment was created to do, love their neighbor as themselves. 

What the Samaritan did was equivalent to a Ku Klux Klan member rescuing, bandaging, and paying for an African American's recovery or vice versa. What the Samaritan did was equal to a radical Muslim rescuing an Israeli citizen or vice versa. Notice I said vice versa. Altruism works both ways. Our opinions are formed by the Bible, not our current, unstable, fickle culture or affinity group. We are like an eye, a little white and a little black so we can see.

Selfishness costs nothing but compassion is costly. The Samaritan paid the whole bill. The Samaritan gave his time, energy, finances, and emotions. You see, anyone can be like a religious scholar. We can have the correct answers and then not do a thing about it. Someone once wrote, "To love the whole world is no chore; my only problem is my neighbor next door."

Who are you and I in this parable? I hope the good Samaritan. And please don't try and virtue signal when meeting a need for someone. I get tired of all the ‘cool’ people on social media taking a selfie of themselves as they give 20 dollars to a poor person on the street corner. That's not altruism. That's self-aggrandizement. The Good Samaritan didn't want any credit for his act of kindness. Generosity doesn't either. Like that old song says, "Take a look at yourself, and you will look at others differently." 

The more significant point of this story is this. Humanity is the robbed man by the side of the road. Naked, stripped, and half-dead, we all need a Good Samaritan to save us. In many cases, religion steps around us. But, unfortunately, in many cases, so does politics, business, media, and education.  

Who is the Good Samaritan in this story? Jesus said, “I will pay humanity’s bill in full," and He did. That's mighty neighborly. Maybe there is a person in our neighborhood saying, "Won't you be my neighbor?" 

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Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com