Summary: In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus challenges his followers to be creative in their neighborly love and to think outside the box.
[Enter to theme song of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, “It’s A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood.” Sit down, replace shoes with athletic shoes, and slip on a cardigan sweater]
From the late 60’s to 2001, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was a staple of the American family television diet. Through wars, the rise of gangs and gang violence, and the civil rights movement, Fred Rogers preached a gospel of love and caring—of being good neighbors.
Fred Rogers, of course, was not the first to tackle the question of “Who is our neighbor?” and the issue, “How am I a good neighbor.” Jesus focuses on these points in his parable about the Good Samaritan. Though his comments are in answer to the questions of a concerned Pharisee, we understand his response to be basic to our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The Pharisee, who wanted to make sure that he covered all his bases and met the letter of the law, asked Jesus who was his neighbor. Jesus never really answers his question. Instead Jesus answers what it means to be neighborly—a good neighbor.
One of the first characteristics of a good neighbor is the ability to see likenesses. The Samaritan looked at the man who had been mugged and rob and saw a man—just like himself. He didn’t see a Jew, or a person of a different class.
It is very human and natural for us to recognize differences. It is part of our survival mechanism. A herd of zebras survives by noticing the differences of a lion in their midst. The good news is that we no longer need to be in “survival mode.” We can rise above the human and natural and begin to notice similarities instead of differences.
We see similarities rather than differences when we see people instead of groups. Groups are imposing and inhuman. Groups accentuate differences.
We see similarities when we start at the fundamental similarity that binds all of humanity together—we are people whom God loves.
The second similarity that binds us together is that we are people who have sinned and who are in need of a savior—Jesus.
Good neighbors see needs. The Good Samaritan saw a man in need—he was dying—and he acted to meet the man’s needs. The priest and the Levite only saw religious obligations and social responsibilities.
We often become so self-centered that we see only our own needs and not anyone else’s. We don’t offer to help our neighbor because we don’t see his or her needs and we’re slightly angry that he or she doesn’t see our need and help us.
With the eyes of faith, we are able to look beyond ourselves and our personal needs and begin to focus on others and their needs. We begin to experience what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and live in the reality of the abundant life, when we do this.
PAY THE COST
The Good Samaritan was willing not only to act, but to take on the cost of meeting his neighbor’s needs. He paid the inn keeper and assured him that he was good for any additional expenses.