Have you ever had an annoying neighbour? Perhaps they party until late at night. Perhaps they park their car in front of your driveway? Perhaps they throw their rubbish over the fence into your yard?
Neighbours can also be wonderful. They can keep an eye on our home while you’re away. Feed your animals. Even become good friends. We have a decent sized block that takes Stephen most of a day to mow with our lawnmower, especially in Spring. Recently some neighbours used their ride-on mower to mow our lawns. What a gift!
Neighbours… they can be a great blessing or make our lives very difficult.
In Luke 10 we read about a lawyer putting Jesus to the test.
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Jesus, as He so often did, replied with a question,
What is written, how do you interpret it?
The lawyer demonstrated his understanding of the law responded,
Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbour as yourself.
But the lawyer was looking for a loophole.
Who is my neighbour? he asked Jesus.
Jesus answered this question with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A man (a Jew) was attacked by robbers and lay injured, stripped and half dead on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite came along and passed by on the other side. Perhaps they were afraid for their own physical safety – what if the robbers were still around? Perhaps they were afraid of becoming “unclean”. Quite possibly they simply didn’t want to get involved. Whatever the reasons, they ignored the injured man lying there.
Then along comes a Samaritan, a bitter enemy of the Jews.
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
The Samaritan didn’t pass by on the other side of the road, he didn’t turn a blind eye, but he cared for the man at significant personal cost – his safety, his schedule, his resources and finances. 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. 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.
Jesus concludes the parable with another question to the lawyer.
Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the thieves? The man responded, The one who showed him mercy. Jesus concluded, You go, and do likewise.
MORE ALIKE THAN IT APPEARS
When Jesus asked the lawyer, “Who proved to be a neighbour?”, the lawyer summed up the actions of the Samaritan as showing mercy.
Tim Keller, in his book “Ministries of Mercy” writes that “theologians have discerned that God’s mercy (the Greek word eleos) is that aspect of His nature that moves Him to relieve suffering and misery. ‘Mercy’ is the impulse that makes us sensitive to hurt and lack in others and makes us desire to alleviate them. These ‘hurts or lacks’ we call needs.”
The Samaritan showed mercy by meeting the felt needs of the injured man – with deeds, not words. He didn’t stand over him preaching at him. He didn’t ask him what he’d done to get there. He didn’t demand his life story to determine whether he was worth helping.
Instead, he met his felt needs with his presence (vs 34), with practical care (vs 34) and with provision (vs 35).
Our neighbour is often not the one we choose but the one God chooses for us.
The Samaritan, by virtue of his ethnicity, his culture, his religion, his history, had absolutely no compulsion or obligation to stop and help the injured Jew. Unlike the priest or the Levite, he could have walked straight past.
Our neighbour is not just the one who is convenient to love, not just the one who is easy to love, not just the one who costs us little. He or she is not just the one we choose to love.
One observation from this application rich parable is this:
The neighbour we’re called to love is often not one we choose but one God chooses for us….. The Jew and the Samaritan wouldn’t have chosen the other as his neighbour. What made them neighbours was one man’s unchosen calamity and another man’s chosen compassion, but only in response to an unchosen, inconvenient, time-consuming, work-delaying, expensive need of another.”
Jon Bloom, Desiring God.
Every child of God has been the recipient of mercy. While we were undeserving, while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us. There is nothing that we have done to earn God’s mercy and grace. All of us are like the man lying injured on the road, bankrupt and helpless, and in that state Jesus reached out to us.
If God has done that for each of us, how can we not show mercy to our neighbour?
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
Who is your neighbour?
Will you go and do likewise?
Pastor Donna Hill