People are great at making excuses in order to get out of doing something. Forgot to do your homework: Say the dog ate it. Have to choose between watching the ball game and doing a project: say you got sick and couldn’t work. Got pulled over while driving: say there was an emergency. Miss a meeting: I got locked in the bathroom.
Often we use such excuses to justify, or make it feel right, for not doing something. It’s sad but it’s true. Today we are focusing on loving our neighbors. We all love people, but loving others always seems to come at inconvenient times and inconvenient ways. I’m convinced there is always a good excuse for not doing it. But loving others is the second greatest commandment, so we need to feel the weight of it, even more we need to find motivation for it.
We are in a series called Realigned in which we are trying to realign our lives and our church with what God calls it to. As a church, a lot of this series has probably reinforced what you have heard and believed in the past. And that hasn’t been a surprise to me. The area people keep telling me is the one that needs the most sharpening is impacting our local community-- our neighbors. Everyone see a need here, wants to grow in it but are a bit unsure how to do it. I believe as we all focus on this individually and try to take a step forward in it we will start to better know what we can be doing corporately. It may take a while to develop a program on this, but one thing is clear right now. God calls us to love our neighbors, and we should not shrink from it, avoid it, or ignore it. If we love our neighbors we will find a way to reach them and serve them.
Turn to Luke 10:25-37. We are going to read a passage where Jesus teaches what it means to love our neighbors.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" 27 He answered: " '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, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " 28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' 36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"
37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:25-37 NIV)
This passage starts with a lawyer is seeking to test Jesus. He asks what to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus says, "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." (Luk 10:27 ESV). For some reason he didn’t stop there. Jesus complemented his answer so he should have stopped but he didn’t. “Trying to justify himself” probably means a less that sincere response and shows he was trying give good reason for things he had done. Justify means to “make right” as if there is no faults. He is trying to justify his actions, probably wrong actions toward others.
This was the issue in Matt 5:43 when Jesus taught on loving your enemies. Matthew 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” There it is clear the people thought it was OK to hate your enemy. They also said it was sufficient to love your neighbor, but not love them “as yourself.” Both of those were contrary to Lev 19:18 which says, “love your neighbor as yourself.” This lawyer seems to have a similar intent.
Jesus tells a story about a man on his way to jericho. Jericho was seventeen miles east of Jerusalem. 800 feet below sea level. Jerusalem was 2500 feet above. Robbers would hide in the mountains, rocks, and desert along the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Jericho had a large population of priest and they would travel to the temple in Jerusalem.
Priests and Levites, the religious leaders are the foil in the story. As those who teach God’s word you think they would abide by the law to love their neighbor and help the man who is hurt. They do not. They could have refused contact because of involvement in the sacrifices and maintenance of the temple and various purification rites. A priest was not to defile himself by contact with the dead, except in the case of a close relative. It’s a fictional story and we shouldn’t imply more than is said, but it is natural curiosity to want to know why he didn’t stop. That might confine us to too narrow an application than what Jesus intended. It’s clear he should have stopped. There is the letter of the law and law of love.
Surprisingly, a Samaritan is the hero of the story. There is a long standing dislike between Jews and Samaritans. By deliberately choosing an outsider to be the hero it indicates that being a neighbor is not a matter of nationality or race. The mutual hatred of Jews and the Samaritans is evident in such passages as John 4:9 where it is said Jews have no dealings with Samaritans, not even over a drink of water. The Jewish kingdom was divided after Solomon’s reign. The 10 northern tribes of Israel formed a nation known as Israel or Samaria. In 722 Samaria fell to the Assyrians and the leading citizens were exiled and dispersed throughout the Assyrian Empire. Non-Jewish people were then brought into Samaria. Intermarriage resulted and the rebels became “half-breeds” in the eyes of the southern kingdom. After the Jews returned from exile in Babylon, the Samaritans sought at first to participate in the rebuilding of the temple. Their assistance was rejected. The Samaritans later built their own temple on Mount Gerizim. The Jews attacked and destroyed it in 128 bc. So great was the Jewish and Samaritan hostility that Jesus opponents could think of nothing worse to say of him than he is a Samaritan and demon possessed (john 8:48). Notice the lawyer won’t even admit the Samaritan was a neighbor to the man. When asked which proved to be a neighbor he says, “The one who showed mercy.” Easier to say the Samaritan. .
This passage builds on some of the great reversals in Scripture. The last are first. The first last. Those who lose their lives save it, those who save their lives lose it. The one who is too busy with his religious duty to stop is condemned; the reject who stops to show mercy is honored!
This passage teaches who we are to love and how to love them.
The first thing addressed is the who of your neighbor. Is it those in your family, nation, race, tribe, office, neighborhood community? Yes, it is, but it’s not just those you choose to be around. It is anyone you encounter. It is any and all. Jesus’ call to love neighbors transcends even the most deeply ingrained societal divisions.
We all have people we would rather not love. Maybe it’s someone who is from a different race or skin color. Maybe it’s someone from a different socio economic status. Maybe it is someone that works in a different department and we don’t like that whole department. Maybe it’s someone that belongs to a different political party or a different religion. Maybe it’s someone you have never met or talked with but you already have an opinion of them. Maybe it’s someone you fear may cause you to lose standing with others. Maybe it’s someone who doesn’t have their act together and it just frustrates you. Maybe it’s someone that is just really annoying--she brought it on herself! If she wants friends she shouldn’t be so …
Jesus was slighted by those who should have been his friends. He still gave his life for them.
Jesus says here we are to love anyone we come in contact with. There is no excuse to pass by on the other side. There is no one to avoid. No one to move away from. If we love a complete stranger like this then certainly we should show love and compassion toward those we are close to: brothers, sisters, coworkers, etc.
We also learn...
You are to love others “as yourself.” Jesus paints a brilliant picture of what this looks like The Samaritan treats the stranger more like a brother or friend. He treats him as he would want to be treated. That’s how we are to love others.
He stops for the man. It says he felt compassion for the man to be moved as to one's bowels, hence, to be moved with compassion. It was not a theoretical love. It was a deep inward compulsion. The Samaritan bound up his bloodied and beaten body. he gets out of his car so this man can ride in his place. He brings him to the inn and takes care of him. This man seems to have had some money and logically you might think he has an assistant, an employee, or another hired hand take care of him. But that is not what happens. He does it himself. He then says to the manager of the in, “give him whatever he needs, here is some money.” No questions asked. He is so focused on caring for his neighbor. LIke there is nothing better to do.
James 2:16 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16 NIV)
After telling this story, Jesus tells the lawyer to go and do likewise. Here is the standard of what it means to love your neighbor. That is how you are to love. How does your justification feel now! You might think you don’t need to love others. I m a white collar kind of guys and just don’t need to do such hands on work. Well there are only blue collar Christians.
A few ways to consider Loving your neighbor:
I heard a new word recently, it’s called margin. An article was talking about how people today are so booked up with activities that they have no margin in their lives. I think that's a good word for us. We should serve God not our schedules. Our schedules should serve us and allow us to serve God. Not to say planning is unimportant, but do we plan any margin into our days, weeks, years.
In the OT people were commanded to make margin in their life for others. In planting crops they choose goodness over efficiency.
Are you putting any margin in your life? What these passages speak toward economic activity the parable of the good Samaritan speaks toward all of life. Disciple your kids to see that life is more important that just making a buck or just getting to the next activity.
Our culture seems to be one enslaved to its own ambition and self-sufficiency. We take no time for others. Whether it’s the beaten and bloodied man on the side of the road in need or one of kids needing some time.
When you make time for others you find out the needs they have. Maybe its spiritual and maybe it is physical needs. MLK.?
Make time for others. Make time to do things for others. Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. (Act 9:36 ESV)All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them. (Act 9:39 ESV)
It’s counter intuitive to interrupt your life to help someone else. Our flesh recoils from awkward situations, we don’t want to be near people struggling and cut deep by life. Moving to the opposite side of the road is enticing. We need to see the power of going towards the hurting and the lost. I recently saw that the marines advertise and boast about going toward danger. An advertisement from their website says this,
THE DESPERATE CRIES OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN
THE RAPID BURSTS OF MACHINE GUN FIRE
THE DEAFENING ROAR OF A TSUNAMI
MOST PEOPLE HEAR THE SOUNDS OF CHAOS
AND RUN IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION
BUT THERE ARE A FEW
WHO LISTEN INTENTLY FOR THESE SOUNDS
NOT IN THE HOPES OF HEARING THEM
BUT TO HELP RID THE WORLD OF THEM.
THEY ARE THE FIRST TO MOVE
TOWARD THE SOUNDS OF
THEY ARE THE FIRST TO MOVE
TOWARD THE SOUNDS OF CHAOS
The few, the proud, the marines.
Don’t you love hearing this about your military. Don’t you love the bold heroism that’s unafraid. Isn’t that who the Samaritan was. Is’nt that what Jesus calls us to. Isn’t that who you want to be. We all want to help others. We all want to influence others. Jesus frees us from the rat race of life and self preservation and leads to the path of true life. It requires putting others first and loving them as we do ourselves. This is what Christianity has been known for. Listen
In 161 A.D. a plague struck Rome. The emperor’s own physician fled. So did the pagan priests and many others. Each person’s life was at stake. Yet, the Christians remained. Their motivation was not self-centered, but Christ-centered. They stayed behind to care for the sick. Jesus had told them that, in attending to the needs of others, they were caring for him. The charity of Christians set them apart from their pagan neighbors and attracted their attention.
During a plague in Alexandria when nearly everyone else fled, the early Christians risked their lives for one another by simple deeds of washing the sick, offering water and food, and consoling the dying. Their care was so extensive that the emperor Julian eventually tried to copy the church’s welfare system. It failed, however, because for the Christians it was love, not duty, that motivated them.
At the risk of their own lives, they saved an immense number of lives. Their elementary nursing greatly reduced mortality. Simple provisions of food and water allowed the sick that were temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.
The service of the early church was such that the emperor Julian was concerned Christians were leading to his people becoming atheists, that is the were denying their God’s to become Christians. He said,
Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians’] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [unbelief of the pagan gods]? For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well,
What a great testimony of Christians loving others. It has an impact. I think of examples I have seen in the church where people in terrible situations came to church and were loved on. Members opened their homes, talked about relationships, finances, who Jesus is, and lives were changed. They moved toward the mess. Invited the mess in.
You may say that you are only around those who are well off. Yes, many appear that way on the surface, but once you get below the surface you find marriages that are not well, kids who are doing well, couples who are one paycheck away from losing it all. Everyone looks great on facebook. They are all so happy. Don’t be fooled by the facade of suburban American. Spend time with people you see that all is not well. You see heartache.
Let’s move toward messy situations.
Lets move toward awkward, difficult, needy people.
Lets move toward meaningful conversation. Last week after the message we had a small group, and it was neat to hear people talk about how everyone they know wants to have more substantive conversations but no one is willing to ask those questions. People are scared to talk about substantive things and yet they are starved for real relationship. Be brave and talk.
Lets move toward spiritual needs. Jesus does that here. He goes from being tested to revealing this guy’s problem. And he does it in a way only Jesus could!
But we can and should move toward helping people with their spiritual needs. Let’s ask about their relationship with God, what they think of Jesus, how or why they think they should love others, let’s ask about their struggles. Don’t be bullied by “no talking about religion and politics.” Lets do it, let’s be respectful and loving!
Let’s invite people to church. If we believe the gospel is the solution to all of our problems then no matter what their problem they are going to be helped here. Get in the habit of inviting others. Whatever their problem.
A friend of mine was once inviting someone to church and that person said they needed to work and couldn’t take time off to go to church. My friend looked and said, “There were two lumberjacks that got paid for cutting down trees. One cut down 70 and worked 7 days a week. Another cut down 80 trees and worked 6 days a week. Do you know how the one was able to cut down 80 trees in only six days? You have to take time off to sharpen your saw. Coming to my church is like sharpening your saw.
We talked about influencing others last week. A great way we influence them is by loving them. Taking time. Talking about substantive things. Inviting them to church. Maybe pray for them on the spot. Do the small things in life really well!
Christians should be most ready to show love and grace to others for we ourselves have seen the greatest display of mercy- a Savior who would come to earth, take the form of a servant, obey the law, and suffer for sins. He has shown us his mercy and he revealed it when we were spiritually dead. He has shown us this love we ought also to show it to others. This is why Jesus said love would be a principal mark of his disciples, because the only reason to go to those who are not lovely is because we know the love of God. We should be loving thosee sitting next to us and going to places no others want to go to. Doing tasks no other wants to. This is what Jesus did for us.
This passage certainly motivates us to go love our neighbors, but I think it is meant to do more than motivate us. I think it’s meant to devastate us. The lawyer was trying to justify himself. Jesus tells this parable so the man can see his need to abandon self justification. Many people do good things in order to be good, in order to feel good. Jesus tells this parable and it should overwhelm us. It should make us aware of how merciful God has been to us. In the story we are appalled at the priest and Levite who pass on by, and yet how often have we done that to others. God has been patient with us. He has shown mercy. We have walked past people in need, even moved to the other side. We ignore those around us. We don’t take time to say hello. We don’t ask what’s wrong. We fear upsetting people rather than helping right wrongs. We give in to the pressure of others and ignore wrongs. Overwhelmed by God’s love is the best place to be for loving neighbors. If it is absent we will love out of self-righteousness, wanting to show others how great we are or how they need to conform to our standard. That’s not loving.
I think almost every person wants to help others, but they often lack a compelling reason or example. In Christ we have both the reason and the example. And we must first fall upon him fully and completely. Trusting him and his work. We are justified, made right, now through any actions we can do but only through him. Through his life, death, and resurrection we have the forgiveness of sins.
All efforts to justify ourselves faith. We should be broken, and that causes us to fall on the one who was broken for us.
1 Cor 11:23