Summary: Neighbors. There are good ones and then those we wished would move. Have we become Neighborhaters? Can’t we get along?
There Goes The Neighborhood
It is one of those fond and nostalgic memories. The sweaters. The shoe change. The trolley. The life lessons. Mr. Rogers’ mild manner often disguised the fact that he was dropping truth bombs on children. In fact, unknown to many until recently as a new interest in this soft spoken man has brought it to light is that Mr. Rogers was a preacher. A licensed and ordained minister. He had simply moved his pulpit onto a quaint TV set made up to look like an inviting living room. His congregation had become little children all over the world.
The prevailing message from his show was about neighbors. The preaching was preceded by a special song that asked this question . . . "Won't you be my neighbor." He drove this message home by making statements like this . . .
"We all long to be lovable and capable of loving and whatever we can do through the neighborhood or anything else to reflect that and to encourage people to be in touch with that, then I think that's our ministry."
He was preaching! Where do you think he came up with the concepts that he taught? Mr. Rogers learned from the original Mr. Rogers . . . Jesus! Jesus may have never sung the goofy song or set on a stool and changed His shoes but He certainly taught us about neighbors. Perhaps one of His most important lessons was taught here . . .
Luke 10:25-37 (Message)
Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?” He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.” Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?” Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man. “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’ “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?” “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”
This famous and extremely rich account teaches us so many things that I could probably spend the entire series in this one account. However, there are some other things we want to drill down on so just quickly let me mention a few things that teach and challenge us.
First, the Jews were Neighborhaters. They hated the Samaritans because they were half breeds. They looked down on them. They avoided them. The Jericho Road was in fact a road that was used (there were quicker routes) so that Jews could bypass Samaria! The road that was used as a backdrop for the account was nothing more than a hiding place for hate. They literally went out of their way to avoid the Samaritans. None of us would go out of our way to avoid someone would we?
So, Jesus tells this story and the lessons are stark. He uses characters that should arrest our attention. The religious folks . . . those who are supposed to know and love God are the ones who fail to respond. A Samaritan is painted as the hero. An unexpected person in an unexpected place responds. He behaves in the exact opposite manner as the religious folks. Jesus shows us that real neighbors responds. Inconvenience themselves. He crafts this story to answer this question . . . "who is my neighbor?"
We know the story. We are familiar with it. But perhaps we need to ask this question again. Who is our neighbor?
Jesus redefines and expands our neighborhood.
We tend to define our neighborhood as those who live within reach. We tend to confine our concept of neighborhood to those on our block, in houses that look like ours, people who are similar to us, same zip code, same area code and those in cultures that resemble ours. But Jesus redefines and expands our neighborhood. He says neighbor is now anyone in front of us who may be in need. It has nothing to do with sidewalks it has to do with sickness. It has nothing to do with proximity it has to do with pain. It is no longer about a house but about hurt.