We Are All Neighbors

October 25, 2020

Pastor Charles

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Today’s sermon is based on the story of the Good Samaritan. This is a well-known passage of the Bible. The Society is so familiar with the story there are at least half a dozen Hospitals in the US named after the Good Samaritan. In this story, Jesus teaches his followers a new concept of neighborliness, one not defined by social, cultural or ethnical boundaries, but one rooted in love, mercy and forgiveness. As I was preparing this sermon our communication leader Leah told me of Mr. Rogers’s song called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” after listening to it, I decided to title today’s sermon “We Are All Neighbors.”

  1. Jesus and the Lawyer

In today’s story we are told that a lawyer asked Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with a counter question. He asked, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” The Lawyer answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). To justify himself the lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” In Jewish culture, only a fellow Jew was a neighbor. Gentiles weren’t considered to be neighbors. The Lawyer was implying he has fulfilled the Law by treating his fellow Jew with respect in keeping with the Law. Therefore, he has earned eternal life by complying with the Law, not through a personal relationship with God. Our friend thought he finally had Jesus. But Jesus is smarter and wiser. He told him the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are introduced to four individuals.

  1. The Priest and the Levite

In Jesus’ time, the road from Jericho to Jerusalem was 18 miles long, sandwiched in between mountains. Even today most parts of the highway connecting Jerusalem with Jericho runs in between mountains. It was common for the travelers of ancient times on this path to come under the attack of bandits and thieves who lived on the mountains.

This Jew was one such victim. A Priest passed by him but did nothing to help. He passed by on the other side deliberately putting a safe distance between himself and the dying man. Maybe he feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around. Then a Levite passed by. According to hierarchy Levites were a little lower than Priests. Nevertheless, they were a well-respected group in Jewish society. The Levite also passed by on the other side of the road. Maybe he too feared ceremonial uncleanliness or was afraid the bandits were still around.

  1. The Jew and the Samaritan

The history of the feud between Jews and Samaritans is as old as 722 B.C. The year the Assyrians conquered Israel and took most of its people into captivity. Shortly afterward, the invaders brought in Gentile colonists to resettle the land. The Samaritans were descendants of these Jews who mingled with the Gentiles. Therefore, the other Jews despised the Samaritans.

It was such a man that became the neighbor to the fallen Jew. Did he know the Law of Moses? Jesus didn’t tell. But he said this, “But a Samaritan who was traveling came to where the injured man was, and when he saw him, he felt compassion for him.” Then Jesus closed the story with another question. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The Lawyer knows the answer, but he cannot even bring himself to mention the man’s race. He is picky about his neighbors. He answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” By telling this parable Jesus wants us to understand:

  • Eternal Life is an inheritance of God reserved for those who love him. But we cannot say we love him if we refuse to show mercy to people.
  • Our love for one another truly reveals our love for God. To show mercy and be a neighbor to the needy is the act of that love.
  • Be a neighbor to anyone in need. Don’t divide people as neighbors and non-neighbors based on their race or behavior because, God created everyone in his own image.
  1. A call for Action
  • Don’t count the reward: Although loving others will make us heirs of eternal life, it’s not the reason why we show mercy. Compassion is. If eternal life is the sole purpose for showing mercy, then we are seeking to earn it.
  • Don’t count the risk: The Priest and the Levite counted the risk. The Samaritan didn’t. We can’t show mercy unless we are willing to leave the comfort zone.
  • Don’t shift the blame: The Samaritan didn’t shift the blame. He transformed his convictions into action. God is not pleased when his children shift the blame for what’s not done. God is pleased when his children do something about it.
  • Don’t count the sacrifice: The Good Samaritan was a traveler too. He had to be somewhere but rearranged his priorities to attend to the wounded man. Mercifulness calls for sacrifices. We can’t show mercy unless we are willing to sacrifice ourselves.
  • Don’t count the cost: The Samaritan had to shoulder the financial cost of the welfare of the wounded man. Mercy is costly because everything in our society comes with a price. We will not count the cost if we truly want to show mercy.
 

Conclusion

Jesus showed that one cannot hate another human being and still claim to love God. Our love for God and man is best expressed in showing mercy to people in need. Let us show mercy wholeheartedly and God will reward us with eternal life. We Are All Neighbors. Amen.