Friday, June 17, 2011

"Who is My Neighbor?" A Fresh Look at the Good Samaritan

Luke 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

There are standard bible stories we know well. We've heard a myriad of Sunday School lessons and sermons based on them. . But the Lord has been stirring something in me for quite a while that challenges my own compartmentalized view of this story.

We can glibly suggest, "leave it to a lawyer to find a loophole in a command to love your neighbor". But isn't this tendency in us all? We can rattle on and on about how we would never be like the evil priest or Levite and leave someone on the side of the road. And yet I believe we do it every day, and not in the way we may think.

The other day I was visiting a friend in a nearby neighborhood. As we discussed reaching out to neighbors he pointed to a home in his cul-de-sac. In that home are church goers he wants to get to know. Knowing my friend I'm sure he will follow through. His heart is to establish fellowship with them if they know the Father (and share the gospel if they don't) If they are genuine believers what opportunities have been missed already to walk out the love of Jesus together? This has implications for our togetherness, and therefore our mission to show the world Jesus.

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Now I ask you: how will busy people who don't know Jesus ever see us loving one another without attending one of our events or services? I contend that this must happen at the neighborhood level. So what prevents this? I contend the major reason is we are too preoccupied with our church and religious branding rather than our identity in Jesus. Which leads to my next question: How many Christ followers do we drive by and ignore in our neighborhood at least once weekly to get to "church"? How many lonely, isolated saints (who may very well also be "in church")do we simply pass over on a regular basis?

The only cure for this madness begins with rediscovering our complete identity in Jesus!

Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Remember whom Paul is addressing here? Believers! He's warning believers not to be "taken captive". I believe many of us who pride ourselves in sound theology, fall into deep deception in our ecclesiology (doctrine of the church).

While this scripture clearly teaches that we have been filled in Him (or are complete in Him), I believe way too many believers are extremely vulnerable in this area. How many of us right now are wandering around looking for some church, leader or movement to "complete us" when we are already complete in Him? "Christ in us (corporately) is the hope of glory". Through his incarnation, His living in us, we are already empowered to be who he has called us to be.

But something in us often makes us look to something or to others in an unhealthy way. When we find our identity in a denomination or church brand in a way that transcends our identity in Jesus, we are captives! When our identity is shaped more by a pastor or other leader we are captives. What is at the foundation of all of these religious factions in this city and others, but philosophy, empty deceit and human traditions? The early church knew nothing of different "brands" to join in rivalry with others in the same city. There is no biblical reason to cordon off one believer from another. How can that be justified in light of Jesus' own prayer in John 17 that we be one? This factional spirit is clearly powered by an elemental spirit of the world, not Jesus.

So what does this mean? By God's grace I have set my heart not to honor any human line of division between myself and a brother or sister in the Lord. I'm learning to love all of Jesus' blood bought family under heaven... period. This begins with my neighbors.

Now that you know what Jesus said, what are you going to do about it? I suggest that you take on a "Good Samaritan Challenge": Get to know your neighbors and identify at least one follower of Christ in your neighborhood whom you will get to know. Share with that person or family your heart to live out your profession together, and ask that person or family to join you in times of fellowship, prayer, and outreach together in your community.

I suspect that this will be the beginning of a new awareness for you and your neighbor(s). As you walk this out, pray that strongholds of religion, sectarianism, and churchism will be broken... first in your own heart, but also in those around you. I don't think we can begin to imagine what will emerge if we are faithful to BE the people God has called us to be... right where we are.

If you decide to take on this challenge, follow the link below and "Like" this page on Facebook. Along the way, I would love for you to post your stories of what the Lord is up to in your neighborhood.!/pages/The-Good-Samaritan-Challenge/137587739651168?v=wall

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