Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Who is My Neighbor?

Written by Kristy Kratky, our Children’s Ministry Director

Several years ago Hugo Tale-Yax, a 31-year-old homeless man, lay dying on the sidewalk in Queens, NY. He had been attacked by a mugger and left for dead. A surveillance camera showed more than twenty people passed by without stopping to help. One man bent down to roll him over revealing a pool of blood. Another used his cell phone to take a picture of the dying man. Most looked curiously at the body and hurried away. Interestingly enough, Tale-Yax, written off by the bystanders, was a hero. He was stabbed while coming to the aid of a woman being mugged by another man.

I can’t help but think of the parallels with the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. A lawyer approached Jesus with the intent to trap Him and asked, “What must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus responded with a question of His own asking the legal expert what he thought the Law said. The lawyer replied, “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.” Great answer. Wanting to feel good about himself, the lawyer then asked, “And who is my neighbor?” As a Jew the lawyer might have thought his neighbor was solely his fellow Jews. Perhaps he felt he was a good enough person already. In response Jesus told a story. I love that Jesus rarely answered questions directly and often told a story.

The condensed version of the parable is that a man was traveling alone from Jerusalem to Jericho on a very dangerous road. He was attacked by robbers, beaten, stripped and left for dead. A priest, who was a religious leader and pillar of society, saw the man and walked by on the other side of the road. Another religious man called a Levite also looked at the victim and kept on going. A Samaritan approached the dying man. Samaritans were not Jews; they were racially and religiously different. Great animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans going back hundreds of years. As a matter of fact the title of this parable is a bit of an oxymoron. Calling a Samaritan “good” would be like saying “good Packer fan”. This wasn’t just a nice moral story; it was shocking to the listeners. In Jesus’ story the Pharisee and the Levite were the bad guys and the Samaritan was the hero. Jesus asked who the neighbor was and the lawyer replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him to go and do the same.

This parable has so many layers and much application to our lives. Who is our neighbor? How do we have eyes to see the needs around us? How do we respond when we see a need? A young boy wrote a letter to Mother Teresa and asked her how he could make a difference with his life like she had with hers. For months he waited eagerly for a response. Finally, one day he opened up the mailbox to find a letter from Calcutta, India. With great expectancy he opened it up and read four words that changed his life:

Find your own Calcutta.
Mother Teresa

I believe another, deeper layer to this parable is that Jesus was also asking the question, “Who are you?” This year at Quest 2>52 we’ve been talking about the importance of what we think and believe and how that changes how we live. We’ve discussed how what is on the inside counts and overflows into our actions. We call it: Head, Heart, Hands. Our identity matters. Who we are matters. Our actions follow our beliefs about who we are and whose we are.

An additional layer to this parable, and one that we’re uncovering with the kids who are part of our musical team, is that Jesus used this story to show us what God’s love is like. You are invited to a dramatic reenactment of this parable brought to you by our kindergarten through 5th grade kids. On Saturday, March 18 at 4:00pm and Sunday, March 19 at 9:00am and 10:45am, our kids will unpack this parable through song, drama and dance. The parable will come to life as a fun, over-the-top whodunit. Support and encourage the next generation, invite a friend to hear the gospel and be inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan!

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