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Sunday Message for 10 July 2022: “You’re My Neighbor”

The scripture for today’s message is Luke 10:25-37.

The iconic story of the Good Samaritan begins with an encounter between Jesus and a Jewish religious specialist who asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10: 25). This monumental question hangs over the history of Christianity and Judaism.

Jesus responded to the man by first asking questions of his own:  “What is written in the law?  What do you read there?” (Luke 10:26). The man replied correctly, affirming the need to love God with all the heart, soul and mind and to love neighbor as self. Jesus replied, “Do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28).

At first it seems that Jesus and that man had concluded their productive discussion. Amid their dialogue, Jesus affirmed the supremacy of loving God with a person’s total being. Could this be the end of the story? Hold on, because the plot thickens.

On the one hand, the man’s answer to Jesus is vital because it revealed the key to eternal life, the gist of what God wants and the crux of the Christian faith. On the other hand, the man’s response wasn’t sincere. Part of the problem is that it’s easy to speak good words but far more challenging to translate them into action.

Although the religious specialist had answered Jesus’ question correctly, the man didn’t want to practice what he preached. The man attempted to avoid the responsibility of helping others in the real world. Unfortunately, he attempted to squirm out of truly loving God or his neighbor.  “Who is my neighbor?” the man asked, in a futile attempt to find a loophole in the requirement to love others (Luke 10:29).

Jesus responded to the man by creating the parable of the Good Samaritan, an illustration of unconditional love. Jesus described a situation of a person who, through no fault of his own, had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the roadside. Both a Jewish priest and a person from the elitist tribe of Levi saw the injured man from a distance. Unfortunately, both men ignored the victim by walking to the other side from where the stricken man lay. To their shame, both of the religious hypocrites avoided the injured man.

The third person to encounter the beaten man was a Samaritan, a member of a despised class that Jewish people hated because of an

 

ancient grudge about mixed marriage. Jewish people dismissed Samaritans as half-breeds, those who centuries earlier had intermarried with conquerors. So hated were the Samaritans that Jesus used the issue to illustrate irony in that the Samaritan was the only person among the three passers-by who stopped to help the injured man.

The Samaritan went above and beyond expectations by not only treating the victim’s wounds but also by giving money to provide for his recovery at a nearby inn. Sadly, those two high-status, ethnically pure Jews (the priest and the Levite) shamed themselves by ignoring their duty to help the victim. Jesus’ point is that the despised Samaritan was more righteous, more loving than Jews claiming to be God’s chosen people.

Love isn’t easy. Love is often costly and messy. For followers of God, love is life’s purpose and nothing is greater in your pursuit of eternal life. God invites all of us to the joyful responsibility of loving God by loving others, and of loving others by loving God. The relationship of love goes in both directions such that a person can’t legitimately claim they love God if they don’t demonstrate love for other people.

Neighbors are more than just those living within your housing subdivision, your apartment, below or above you in the city high-rise, or next door to your attached condominium. Neighbors are not limited to members of your tribe, ethnic group, or to those sharing your political or economic convictions. Neighbors are all persons with whom you and I share a common humanity. In other words, your neighbor could be anyone.

As Christians, we are obligated to make our faith real by the way we treat others. Whether you claim to be liberal or conservative, no amount of theology or politics will substitute for acts of compassion. And yes, the more you claim to be Christian, the more God expects you to demonstrate love.

To avoid a disastrous hypocrisy, we are all invited to receive and share God’s love, which makes faith genuine, powerful and relevant. In this way, we can all strive to become a Good Samaritan. My prayer is that we will put our faith into action by compassionate love.     –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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