Neighborliness

“Neighborliness is not a quality in other people; it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).

Who is my neighbor? That’s the question that the expert in Jewish law asked Jesus. In other words, who am I required to love?

Jesus turned the question around from “Who is my neighbor?” to “How am I being a good neighbor to those around me?”

So, a neighbor is anyone who is in need and who is within my power to help. I can’t help every single one in need, but I can meet the needs of those who are in front of me, and those by Jesus’ definition are my neighbors.

Ultimately, the Good Samaritan is a picture of Jesus Himself. I’m the one who foolishly took the dangerous road alone and ended up beaten up and robbed. I’m the one lying half-dead on the road whom the Neighbor spotted and had pity on.

That changes the parable quite a bit, doesn’t it? It means just as the Good Samaritan wasn’t the kind of hero the Jewish audience was expecting, Jesus wasn’t (and isn’t) the kind of Messiah we were expecting.

We prize physical strength and virility. We prize magazine-cover good looks. We love take-charge, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns people.

I wonder sometimes if we’d know Jesus as Messiah if He showed up today as He did almost two millennia ago. People were expecting someone to rally the people against Rome, but instead got a man who insisted that we turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.

Sure, Jesus overturned those tables in the Temple, but He also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

I’m thankful most of all that in Jesus, I got not the kind of Savior I might have wanted, but the kind I so desperately needed. He loved ( and still loves) me just like I am but refuses to let me stay that way.

PS Credit for all of this goes to Mike Glenn, courtesy of tonight’s Kairos message. Check it out some Tuesday evening if you’re ever in the Brentwood/Greater Nashville area.

 

A Kairos Challenge

Tonight, Mike Glenn spoke about the disciples on the road to Emmaus and how they failed to recognize Jesus because so often the last place we look for Jesus is right where we are. Jesus showed the highest compliment to his disciples when he called them friends and proved it when he laid down his life for these friends.

We are called to do the same. We are called to walk alongside people and be their friend, not for any gain or for any return, but simply for the sake of friendship. Even if the other person shows no inclination toward your viewpoint and wants nothing to do with your God, you are still called to be a friend.

The example Jesus showed us is that a friend is a friend, regardless. I can never give up on a friend because Jesus never gave up on me even though he had plenty of opportunities and reasons to do so.

We’re also called to be neighbors. Not in the sense of location, but in the sense of hospitality. The Good Samaritan parable shows us that the definition of a neighbor is someone who has a need that we have the power to meet, regardless of whether that person looks like us, acts like us, or believes us. Regardless of whether that person is likable or not.

I can’t remember where I heard it before and I’m sure I’ve shared it before, but I love the idea that Jesus is the ultimate neighbor. I was the one lying beaten and bloody on the side of the road, half dead. Jesus was the only one to stop and help me. He was the only one who paid for my care.

So, the challenge tonight is to be a friend and a neighbor. Not necessarily to shove my faith down anyone’s throat or prove the existence of God and the Bible. Just to love people where they are for who they are just like someone once loved me.

That’s all.

Seeing With New Eyes

I had a flashback to an old memory. Actually, it was less of a flashback and more of a memory of my mother telling me about it.

When I was 4 or so, I had the notion to pour Comet Cleanser on my head. It seemed like a fine idea at the time to my 4-year old mind. That is, until it got into my eyes.

I don’t remember any of this, but apparently I burned or damaged my retinas pretty severely. I had to stay in a dark room away from bright lights and have drops in my eyes every four hours. According to the story, there was some doubt as to whether my retinas would grow back.

They did.

I don’t know what triggered that memory. I do know that I’ve had experiences that have caused me to look at myself and others through new eyes.

Like tonight. The teacher at Kairos spoke about the tale of the Good Samaritan. Only he said that Jesus taught the parable to show us not that we’re the Samaritan who helps others, but the badly beaten, naked man lying in a ditch on the side of the road, desperate for help.

Maybe you’ve thought to yourself, “Hey, I’m a nice person. I try to help others and do the right thing most of the time.”

But if you’re honest you look at your life and you see deception and manipulation. You see those times when you failed and didn’t do the right thing. You know that if people could read your mind and see some of the thoughts you have in the dark of night, they wouldn’t think you were so nice.

The fact is that we’re all in need of rescue. We’re not as noble or kind or brave as we thought we were. We’re not nearly as able to help ourselves.

But Jesus is so much stronger than we ever knew. He’s so much more than able to reach down and rescue us from the messes we fall into. He’s able to change us into loving people who don’t do kind things as much as they exude kindness. It’s his love inside us by which we love others who aren’t lovable.

I know even after more than three decades of being a Christian, I need Jesus every bit as much now as I did when I first believed. The only thing that’s changed is that I see so much more clearly how good and great he is, how much he loves me, and how committed he is to me.

I haven’t had any more eye emergencies since. Hopefully, I’m smart enough now not to pour household cleaners on my head. Lesson learned.