Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Who are Our Neighbors

 This morning I read to my boys a story in the bible that is all too familiar: the Good Samaritan 

But rereading it again in a simple terms for them, it helped me see it afresh.

In this story, we see a man who was a religious leader tried to trick Jesus.  (Bad move.)  He asked how good he could receive eternal life.  Now this guy should have had all the answers.  He was an expert in the law.  Maybe he had studied for all his life.  He had the theology down.  Maybe he was one of those guys who liked to argue theology.

  And while yes, while yes the path to beginning a relationship with God is something as simple as this, Jesus breaks it down another way.  (He lets the expert tell us but he agrees.) We are to love God with everything we have: all of our heart, soul, strength and mind.  Hold nothing back!  We love him because he first loved us.  We love because He gave himself for us.  We love him as a Father and because He is God.  This kind of love is like my sons' love for me - simply trusting him and enjoying His love for us. 

But Jesus goes a step further, this life eternal is about loving our neighbor as yourself.  Ouch! Notice this religious dude wanted to justify himself so he asks 'who is my neighbor?'   I asked my boys who are neighbor is and they answered with, "Ben and Ellie", "Susan", "Casey", "Lava..."  All correct.  Luke added that some of our neighbors we don't know like the guy with the perfect yard catty-cornered from us.   Again that's a neighbor.

But Jesus tells a story about a neighbor being someone one you would not expect.  In this story the bad guys (I guess save the bandits) are the religious people who think they have it all together.  They walk by - too busy, too much trouble, its dangerous, job for someone else, not my calling....  (You should have seen the confusion in Drew's face as to how someone could not stop and help.)  But the neighbor is someone who doesn't have it all together in fact we could say his theology is all twisted.  He is someone of a different race - in fact an enemy.  He stops, he gives.  He shows compassion.  He loves to the extreme.   He loves with a God-shaped love.He gives more than what is even required.   That's loving your neighbor!  That's following Jesus!  

(Jack & Drew liked the story so much, I had to read it twice.)

Loving God and loving our neighbor.   That's the journey He is calling us to.  May every day we seek to love God more deeply, more completely.  May every day we seek to love our neighbor who is in need - whether on the way, across the tracks or across the ocean.  May we love not just in word but in deed! 

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