Summary: Why wouldn’t people love their neighbors? And do I have to love myself before I can show this kind of love to others?
Today is our Friend Sunday, and many of you invited your neighbors to worship with you this morning. So, this morning I thought I’d give you a little quiz on neighbors.
Years ago PBS featured a program where the host would enter the studio, take off his cardigan sweater, and his dress shoes and put on some sneakers – all the while singing his signature song:
(Sing to the audience)
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Won’t you be my neighbor?”
What was the name of the long running PBS show?
(Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood)
Now, I’m going to give you the name of a famous TV couple or individual and then ask you to give the name of their neighbor:
o Dennis the Menace … (“Helloooo Mr. Wilson!”)
o Daren & Samantha Stevens (Abner and Gladys Kravitz)
o Jerry Seinfeld - (Kramer)
o Laverne & Shirley – (Lenny & Squiggy)
o Flintstones – (the Rubbles)
o The Jeffersons - before they had their own show (Archie & Edith Bunker)
o Ricky & Lucy Ricardo (Fred & Ethel Mertz)
o Tim “the Tool Man” Taylor (Wilson Wilson)
APPLY: It’s not all that hard to tell who those famous TV neighbors were... but in our text today, we find a lawyer who had a hard time knowing who his own neighbor was.
ILLUS: One preacher I’d read (Brian Bill, sermoncentral.com) implied that the question of who your neighbor was hotly debated in that day.
The Law commanded that Israelites were to “love your neighbor as yourself” and so – as all good legalists will do - this lawyer wanted to know who neighbor was so he’d know who he had to love and who he didn’t have to love.
• The Jews typically interpreted “neighbor,” as “one who was near” or a fellow Jew.
• Men like this teacher of the Law tended to reject people who weren’t as religious as they were.
• And there was sect at Qumran excluded everyone not part of their little group.
So this man wanted to have Jesus draw a circle.
He wanted Jesus to explain who was in and who was out?
So Jesus tells him a story.
But let me retell this story in a way that will speak to us today:
STORY: There was once a man from Logansport who went up to Chicago to stay the weekend in one of its fine hotels. While he was there, he wanted to visit Chicago’s fine Museums and eat at its famous restaurants. One night he decided to take a walk through the city and came upon a gang lurking in an alley who beat him up, took all his money and left his crumpled body to bleed on the sidewalk.
Well, along came a Preacher who was on his way to a religious conference. This preacher saw the man lying there… but he was in a hurry, and besides the he might get the man’s blood on his fine suit. He doesn’t have his cell phone with him, but he determined that once he reached the church building he’d call 911 and have someone sent to help the man. So he walks away.
Then a Sunday School teacher passes by. He knows this part of town is dangerous, and so when he sees the bleeding & beaten man on the sidewalk, he’s afraid whoever beat him up might still be there… so he walks quickly away.
Then along comes a man who’s NOT a church goer. He owns a local bar; he’s an atheist and as if that weren’t enough (pause) he regularly supports the ACLU.
But he sees this man lying helpless on the sidewalk and is overcome with pity. He gets his car and gently places the man in the back seat. He doesn’t worry about the blood staining his own clothes or the back seat, he just wants to get this man to the ER as quickly as possible. Discovering that the man has no money, he pays the ER bill himself and gives the staff his phone number so they can contact him if there’s anything else he can do.
Now, which of these 3 was a neighbor the man who was beaten? (The bar owner)
That’s the kind of story Jesus gives this teacher of the Law and in that story, Jesus is teaching the man that “his neighbor” was anyone in need.
Now you might say… no one ever acts like that.
No one would ever see a person in need and just walk by and leave them to die, would they?
ILLUS: Back in 1985, Carolyn Cooley, of Sarasota, FL, was taking her 2 daughters to church one Sunday and was disgusted to find an unkempt man sprawled against a palm tree on the church property. His shoes had holes in them, his battered hat was pulled down over his eyes, and he was surrounded by beer cans. How dare he desecrate church property like that.