This Thanksgiving you may be surrounded by the family and friends that you love. But perhaps there is that one person, that “crazy uncle” that you just can’t stand. He’s rude and vulgar, you haven’t seen eye to eye with them for many years and in fact you’ve had full-fledged arguments with him where things were said on both sides that at least you regret.
Last time we read about how when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied with
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. -Mark 12:30
Well there is a second part to that and it goes as follows;
The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ -Mark 12:31
But maybe you really don’t like your neighbor. And maybe he doesn’t like you. We could also ask, who is my neighbor? Is it just those in my neighborhood, my family? Do I have to love those that live across town? Or what about those that actively try to do harm to me whether physically, mentally or verbally? Do I have to love them too?
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. -Luke 6:27-28
I’ll get into the who love your enemies business in a later post, but for now let’s look at loving your neighbor.
Who is my neighbor?
Entire posts could be written on this, but let’s break it down and try to simplify it. In the book of Luke we get a little more detail on this story as we read about the story of the good Samaritan. See, there was this guy traveling down the road that was robbed, beaten and left for dead along the road. In two different instances people who you would expect to help, a priest and a Levite, saw this man in the ditch and passed along the other side of the road so as not to get involved. Perhaps they were in a hurry, perhaps they were afraid that whomever did this to him was still around and they would be attacked next. Who knows what their motives were, but they passed by.
But then along comes a Samaritan. Not to blow this post up with a ton of Samaritan history, they were generally despised by the Jewish people. In fact, Jews would often avoid Samaritan territory so as not to be contaminated. So anyway, along comes this Samaritan, sees this man (presumably a Jew) in the ditch and has mercy on him. He cares for him, bandages his wounds and then takes him to the nearest inn and pays the innkeeper to care for him until he is well.
Jesus then asks;
Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? -Luke 10:36
The expert asking the question of Jesus answers;
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” – Luke 10:37
Go and do likewise.
Are we good neighbors?
So who is our neighbor? I contend it’s not confined to a certain radius or set of DNA. It’s not even dependent on whether you like the other person or if they like you. It’s those that have a need.
Are we like that priest that walks by and does nothing? Do we go to church each Sunday, give in the offering then drive past a homeless person across the road? While church and offering are important and there is much need around the world, do we forget about those in our own backyards? We can give to the orphan child oversees and some are called to do that and I full-heartedly support them in this. The Good News is getting spread around the world through these missionaries. But many of us are not called to do that. Have we forgotten about that hungry child around the corner?
I live in a farming community in northeast Ohio. Looking at my neighbors, you may not realize that it is an area of quite a bit of poverty. Recently we helped with a food drive and were delivering food to the local food cupboard that serves our community. The administrator of this organization told us that every distribution day, over 200 families come in to receive groceries. These families have to show need, so they truly are the ones that need it. But I imagine there are at least that many families that could qualify for assistance but because of pride or some other reasons, don’t receive this help.
Do we even realize that there is a need like this in our small community. I bet many don’t. Or they are like the priest and the Levite, they pass by on the other side of the street thinking, “Someone else will do this.”
I challenge myself as well as everyone reading this, to look around themselves this holiday season and see who are those they could help. As I’ve said many times, it’s the little things that can change the world, so it won’t take much. It could just be a cup of coffee or a sandwich to a homeless person. Perhaps some time spent with a lonely person. Perhaps it’s a pair of cleats or tennis shoes so that a child has an opportunity to play a sport. How about helping with a band instrument so a student can learn the love of music.
Given these opportunities, these children may thrive in life. Getting that sandwich, may save a homeless person from starving. A simple smile and friendly “hello” may bring someone back from the brink of deep depression or worse. These things can make a difference in a persons life.
What the Samaritan didn’t do?
What’s interesting as well is what the Samaritan didn’t do. There were no preconditions to receiving his assistance. He didn’t got to the man in the ditch and say, “Hey buddy, I see you need some help. If you convert to my flavor of Judaism and start giving to the synagogue, I can help you out.” No, he just helped.
One of the last commandments of Jesus was to go and make disciples. So spreading the word is definitely a priority for us. But it shouldn’t be a condition. I’ve seen it happen where people are hesitant to give, if the message isn’t going out as well. Or perhaps we can’t help that homeless person, because he hasn’t been attending church.
But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners. Christ died for us. -Romans 5:8
He didn’t put a condition on it. He didn’t come to save the healthy, he came to heal the sick.
Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” -Mark 2:17
So, when we give help, can we share the good news? Absolutely. Is it a requirement to receive our help…nope. Until their first needs are met, many people have trouble seeing Jesus… but through your good deeds, through your help, often you and your actions are the vision of Christ they need. Your actions alone may not only save their lives, but could save them for eternity. All without the need of a Bible tract or any other special requirements.
Challenge for us all
So again, here is my challenge that I will be placing on myself and will throw out to all of you. Don’t pass by those in need, thinking someone else will help. Don’t fear helping out someone you see in need. Smile at someone you don’t know. Say a kind word to someone. So many little things you can do to change the world.