Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself (Part 1)
February 7, 2010
NOTE: THE ME/WE/GOD/YOU/WE FORMAT IS FROM ANDY STANLEY'S BOOK, "COMMUNICATING FOR A CHANGE."
We’ve been talking since the beginning of January about the two greatest commandments, and specifically about what Jesus says is the most important commandment of all – to love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.
And as we continue to journey into what we’re calling “The Year of the Family,” I wanted to bring home to you the truth that I’ve hammered on since we began, and that is that we love others best when we love God the most.
But the question that comes up from that point is just how we do that? How do we love others and more specifically, how do we love our neighbor as ourselves, like Jesus says to do and which He says is the second greatest commandment?
I think all of us struggle from time to time with putting ourselves ahead of others, even spouses and children.
Right? Please tell me I’m not the only one!
But Jesus says that we need to be intentional about putting ourselves aside for the sake of others, especially our families and those who belong to the family of God.
It’s hard to do because one of the things the world has drilled into us is to look out for number one.
So how can we go about that?
God: Jesus has some things to share with us about that.
In our passage today He talks a bit of the underlying attitude that we have to have in order to love others as we should.
Next week we’re going to look at another passage that kind of lends itself to the “how to” idea of loving others.
But today we’re looking at the heart issue.
We’re in Luke 10:25-37 (p. 735)as we look at one of the most famous parables Jesus ever told. (Ignore the Mark 12:30 in your note-taking guide as we won’t be using it).
25 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.'"
Did you notice who does the asking here and who does the answering here? In this passage, Jesus isn’t the one quoting the greatest commandment, the lawyer is.
This is an indication that this is actually a separate conversation than the one we’ve been quoting from these last few weeks.
Let’s go on.
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?"
Isn’t this typical? We all try to do that from time to time, and I think that that’s one of the reasons this is here – to show us that once again, Scripture addresses the stuff that you and I go through, and the stuff that you and I try to pull when it comes to trying to get out of obeying God.
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.
The religious leaders pass by. The ones who should be modeling compassion and mercy deliberately ignored the man.
Confession time. I was one of these guys. I’m ashamed of it, and if I had the opportunity again, I’d jump on it.
I won’t get into details, but there was an occasion when I passed by when I should have stopped because I was afraid it was a trick. Not proud of, but there it is.
Then Jesus continues, but all of a sudden it’s not just a story anymore, because He introduces a character that no one listening in the crowd would have guessed at:
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
Stop here for a minute. Most of you are probably aware of this, but for those like me who didn’t grow up with a Bible background, let me explain something.
You couldn’t find a people group that the Jews hated more than the Samaritans, except maybe the Gentile Romans.
The Samaritans were considered “half-breed Jews” and had rejected many of the beliefs of the Old Testament Scriptures and practices.
They couldn’t think of a Samaritan actually helping a Jew. And now Jesus has their attention.
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."
Here’s a question for you: Why didn’t Jesus tell the parable of the Good Jew?
He used a Samaritan to make a point.
He used this story to shatter the idea that we can pick and choose who to be neighbors to
The Samaritan walked over some huge barriers to be a neighbor to this guy.
Let me show you 5 barriers he had to overcome in order to be a neighbor to this Jew, who probably would have preferred just about anyone else to this Samaritan.
Here’s the first one:
> He faced a religious barrier.
This Samaritan had to reach out and touch someone who did not agree with him on the most important matters of life – the eternal questions of God and who He is and how He relates to His creation.
Some people won’t be someone’s neighbor because they’re not a Christian or maybe not a Christian just like them.
“They go to THAT church – so I don’t need to help them out right now.”
Or, “They’re part of that cult – and so helping them would be like helping that cult.”
Or, “They like THAT baseball team – yeesh!”
Wow – good thing Jesus didn’t think like that about you and me when He was hanging on the cross for you and me, who the Scriptures say were enemies of God before we found Christ.
Jesus died for you in me – in spite of the fact that we didn’t want anything to do with Him.
> He faced a racial barrier.
Jews and Samaritans aren’t just Jews and Samaritans religiously, they’re Jews and Samaritans ethnically.
Next month, we’re having Jews for Jesus here to present an awesome presentation called “Christ in the Passover.” You need to be here for that. It’ll blow your mind how God, in His Holy and powerful sovereignty pointed to Jesus when He instituted the Passover.
The guy coming to do the presentation is a Jew. He’s a Christian, and he’s a Jew.
“How can that be? Either he’s a Jew or he’s a Christian – you can’t be both, you have to be one or the other.”
Wrong. That would be like saying you have to quit being black or Asian to be a Christian. It’s not just an issue of religion, it’s an issue of race and ethnicity. Samaritans are a race; Jews are a race.
Now I understand that we’re all part of the human race, and we shouldn’t think in terms of race.
I know that, believe me. I’m making a point here that in this case, it would be like an African-American guy helping someone from the KKK. The racial contrast in this story was that stark.
And you know what’s really sad? This contrast exists in the Church of Jesus today. There are plenty of people who claim to be lovers and followers of Jesus who would pass by someone in need because of their color or ethnic background.
It’s not just sad – it’s sick.
And I’ve seen it here in Aberdeen in people who claim to be Bible-believing Christians who have received Jesus as their Savior.
Folks, let me just flat-out say it. If you hold something against someone because of the color of their skin or their cultural background and you subscribe to the stereotypes that go with that, you are in sin and you need to repent right now.
Remember that passage we looked at from Revelation last week? The one where it said there was a great multitude from every tribe, nation, people, and language?
Wow – call me crazy but I think that just might mean there might be Mexicans, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, and maybe even Norwegians.
Kinda pokes a hole in your “whites-only” club, where you worship some white-skinned, blond-haired Nazi Jesus, totally forgetting that Jesus was a Jew from the Middle East and that He was probably darker than most of us in this room.
Racism is a sin. Racism has absolutely no place in the heart of a Christian and has no place in the Church of Jesus who commanded us to make disciples of all people groups.
Someone once said, “When standing at the foot of the cross, there are no racial barriers.” (1001 Quotations that Connect, Larson & Lowery, Gen. Eds., Zondervan)
And I think that’s the main reason Jesus used a Samaritan in this story. He used the Samaritan to show that we can be neighborly to those outside of our culture and skin color.
> He faced a relationship barrier.
It wasn’t like the Samaritan said, “Hey look! There’s my best friend in the whole world. I’d better take care of him!”
Nope – the victim was a stranger. But that didn’t stop the guy from offering help. He saw a need and he met it. It didn’t matter that they didn’t know each other.
Folks, it just so happens that you’re going to run into people who need help from you that you’re not going to know.
And I understand that it’s a bit scary nowadays to pick up someone or help someone who you don’t know, because you just don’t know what kind of person you’re dealing with.
Believe me, I understand that. And for years after I got married I quit picking up hitchhikers when members of my family were in the vehicle because I didn’t know if the guy was an escaped convict or something.
And I still exercise some discretion, but I’m a bit more open now to picking people up, especially if they’re walking in rain, snow, or cold conditions.
My point here is that the need is just as real for a stranger as it is for a friend or family member.
> He faced a trust barrier.
And here’s what I mean: it’s not that he couldn’t trust the guy he was helping.
What he had to overcome was the possible distrust toward himself when he took the man to the inn.
His motives would be questioned simply because he was a Samaritan. But he took the risk.
Oftentimes we’ll try to help someone and instead of being thankful, the person asks, “What’s the catch?”
They think we’re only doing it because we’re either up to something or expecting something in return.
Some people just can’t trust the kindness of others. Sad, but true.
And it’s especially tough when you’re from outside the helpee’s cultural, religious, or ethnic background.
> He faced a financial barrier.
He had no idea that he would ever be repaid for his kindness. He had no idea that the innkeeper wouldn’t rip him off and demand a lot more money.
He simply didn’t know. But that didn’t stop him.
Notice Jesus, when telling this story didn’t say, “A rich Samaritan saw the man and had pity on him.”
It just says a Samaritan. He had some money, obviously, but nothing in this story of Jesus says that we only help people if we have more money than we know what to do with.
Some of you here have never had the privilege of helping someone when you weren’t sure you had enough to take care of yourselves.
Others of you have. Nervous? Yup. Not sure if you should help? Yup. Blessed for doing it? Yup.
Scripture talks about this all through both the Old and New Testaments. You help as much as you can, and you trust God to fill in the gaps because He says will.
That doesn’t mean that you just throw your money away to everyone who shows up on your doorstep. That’s not wise, and Scripture says that even in your helping you need to be prudent.
But we can trust God to take care of us as we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Folks, what’s my point in discussing all the barriers the Samaritan faced in this parable of Jesus?
And this is the point I want you to really catch and take to heart today:
Jesus strips away every excuse for not loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus deliberately uses the example of a despised Samaritan to take away all the excuses we might have to being a good neighbor.
And the direct implication of this is that to refuse to help someone in need when you can do something about it is to show that you really don’t love Christ like you claim to.
How can I say that? Because if we love God as we should, we’ll love others as we should. And that means we see others through the eyes of God and not our own preferences.
And it means that we will help others as we can, when we can, and we can live out the words of John Wesley:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
(Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.)
Here is something that I’ve always wrestled with regarding this parable: Is the question “Who is my neighbor” really answered in this parable? Yes and no.
It’s not answered directly. Jesus didn’t say, “Everyone” or “whoever has a need.” He didn’t say, “this type of person qualifies as a neighbor.”
Instead, He answered, “Let the neighbor be you.” Interesting, isn’t it? Instead of wondering who deserves to be treated like a neighbor, Jesus says we should be the neighbor and the other stuff will fall into place.
You: What should you do about this? Let me suggest a couple things that you can do between now and next week when we take a look at some other things to keep in mind when loving your neighbor as yourself.
Examine yourself to see if you’ve been using any of these excuses, and if you have been, then repent and ask God’s forgiveness.
Then ask God to help you recognize and jump on opportunities to be a neighbor.
We: Folks, I think we would all agree that there are plenty of selfish and self-centered Christians around.
And truth be told, we’ve all been those selfish and self-centered Christians.
How about we show the world that not every Christian is like that?
How about we show the Aberdeen and surrounding area that the selfish and self-centered Christian is the exception instead of the rule, and that there are those who really mean it when talking about loving their neighbor as themselves and not just throwing hot air?
Show them that self-centered Christianity is an oxymoron, and that those who love Christ show it in how we love our neighbors.
As we go into Communion today, I want us to remember the Savior who stooped to help us out of the disaster we were in as we lived in sin as enemies of God.
Jesus, like the Good Samaritan took of His own personal resources and went out of His way to help us find forgiveness of sins and a home in heaven.
And all we can do is just lay there and take it.
He paid the price for your spiritual health so that you don’t have to spend eternity paying for your sins.
If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus to give you that forgiveness and a home in heaven, then there’s no better day than today and no better time than right now.
Don’t go another day without having it straightened out.