Won’t You Be My Neighbor – More Than “Neighborly”

From Pastor Rich’s Preacher’s Post:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

 

“Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.”

― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

We’ve been looking at the story of the Good Samaritan from a variety of angles, focusing on the human actors named in the story Jesus told. But there is another actor in the story we might have missed—the road itself. Jesus’ audience would have immediately recognized the context of the story since the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho was well known for the regular ambushes travelers risked. It is absolutely necessary to help the one in need, as the Samaritan did for the Jewish man who had been bushwhacked. But at some point, what causes the hurt and pain needs to be challenged.

Like many before me, Micah 6:8 has become one of my biblical “stars” by which I can navigate life and follow the leading of God’s Spirit. Allow me the freedom to paraphrase: God has shown me [us] what is good. And what does the Lord require of me [us]? To act justly.  To love mercy. And to walk humbly with my [our] God.
The biblical justice of the prophets and Jesus exercises a love that is as tough as nails, and is willing to take on the powers and principalities that hurt people. In her book “Waking Up White”, Debby Irving closed by addressing the epitaph she once wanted for her life. She wanted to be known as a “good person”. She concluded that this wish is no longer good enough. More was required of her. Now her hope for her life is, “Faced the Bully”. Jesus stood against the religious bullies of his day. Slavery crumbled when good people were no longer willing to just help the runaway slaves. Slavery, itself, had to end.


“Faced the bully” is about as good a summary of justice as I know.  Real courage is all about shaking in our proverbial boots and saddling up anyway to confront the causes of intentional and unintentional hurt.
 It is standing with the one being trampled by the systems that favor one over another. It is humbly speaking truth to power. It is more than bandaging wounds, it is taking on the causes of those wounds. It is those of us who have tailwinds in our lives reaching out a helping hand to those facing headwinds. The biblical code words for justice include “standing with the widows and orphans; the foreigner; the least among us”.

On May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers appeared before a Senate committee intent on shifting at least half of PBS’ funding to the Viet Nam war effort. It was a “done deal” when Fred humbly told of his purpose to provide quality children’s programming. The mild-mannered Mr. Rogers stood up to a political system about to make a bad decision and carried the day. I’m not likely to be on that kind of stage, but everyday as I live my life I can be sensitive to God’s leading and stand with the ones hurting around me to address what is causing the hurt. You can too. By myself, what I do might not amount to much, but when we do this together, God’s Spirit indeed moves mountains for justice and love.

Once again, here is Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37):

A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” The man answered, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ” “You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.” But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

 

Jesus answered, “There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he told the innkeeper, ‘and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him.’ ”

And Jesus concluded, “In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?” The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who was kind to him.” Jesus replied, “You go, then, and do the same.”
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