The Unexpected Neighbor
Updated: Jun 10
Tuesday - June 9th
Scripture to Read for Today's Devotional: Luke 10:25-37
Today's Selection from our Sermon on the Mount Reading Plan: Matthew 5:17-20
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Jesus asked)
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Yes, you have black neighbors. I have black neighbors too. Most people reading this devotional probably do not live next door to black people. But, each of us has black neighbors. Let me explain from Luke 10:25-37 just how I know we each have black neighbors.
One day as Jesus was teaching, an expert in the Jewish law as it was interpreted in that day, asked Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responded by asking this religious legal expert, what the law said about his question. The legal expert rightfully answered, "'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.'" Jesus affirmed the answer was correct. The lawyer then asked the question, "Who is my neighbor?" To answer that question, Jesus told a story.
The story Jesus told is one of the most famous of all the stories in Scripture. He responded to the legal expert's question about who his neighbor was with the story of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man was traveling the treacherous road down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was attacked, robbed, and left for dead. Two Jewish religious leaders, one a clergyman and one a lay leader, pass by at separate times. Both saw the man, remembered ceremonial rules for Jewish leaders, and to avoid violating rules regarding the impurity of the dead, they went around the man - leaving him there to die.
A little while later, a Samaritan man entered the scene. For those listening to Jesus, the story took a dark turn at that moment in Jesus' story. Samaritans were considered inferior to Jews because they were partially Jewish and partially gentile. Ethnic and racial tension and even hatred existed between Jews and Samaritans. The listeners to Jesus' story thought the story for the half-dead man turned bleak because two Jewish leaders had rightfully done nothing because of their religious piety. Now, a hideous Samaritan arrives on the scene. The listeners believed the worst. The Samaritan will finish off the helpless man out of spite because he was a Jew. Or, so they thought.
The real turn in the story is when Jesus said the Samaritan stopped, used his own 1st-century first-aid kit (oil and wine) to care for the wounds, put the man on his own donkey, and took him to an Inn for safety and recovery. He even left the innkeeper money while he completed his trip and told the innkeeper he would pay him later if there were any more financial expenses needed in caring for the injured Jewish man. Wow, the Jewish religious leaders in the story did what the codes of their day required of them, and in so doing, they left a man to die. But, a Samaritan stopped, helped, and cared for the injured Jew.
Jesus concluded the whole story with a question for the expert lawyer in Jewish laws and customs. He asked, "Who was the neighbor in the story?" Jewish leaders ignored the beaten man's pain and need entirely. Jewish laws and customs had been developed and debated to determine just how far another Jewish person had to live from your house for the "Love your neighbor" command to apply to you.
Jesus took away all of the mental, legalistic hoops the lawyer would naturally jump through to ignore the wounded man. Jesus makes the human, compassionate, neighborly, thing to do obvious. He did that so well that the legal expert in answering, "Who was the neighbor in the story?," simply said, "The one who had mercy on Him" (Luke 10:37).
Jesus' response to the lawyer's correct answer was simple too. "Go and do likewise!"
When people are hurting, technical answers don't work. Both religious leaders were technically following the customs of the day in ignoring a man in great need. Also, they technically did not live in any proximity to that man. So, even in the measurement of the distance between homes, they believed they had no responsibility to help.
When people are hurting, mercy works. The 5th Beatitude Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount is, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy"(Matthew 5:7). Mercy involves unexpected kindness, patience, compassion. Extending Christ-like compassion brings a healing balm. Some of my white friends have tried to argue much about the technical aspects of the wounds of racial injustice our black brothers and sisters feel in America right now. We are arguing over semantics, policies, and procedures.
Don't get me wrong; I am not saying violent riots and looting should be condoned or that any police officer should be threatened or harmed for wearing a badge. But, many of us are consciously or subconsciously trying to ease our consciences by seeking some reason we cannot stand with and come alongside our black fellow citizens - let alone our black brothers and sisters in Christ. They are hurting. They seek justice and need our mercy.
You say you don't have any black neighbors. Yes, you do. Jesus says the one that is hurting needs your attention - needs you to help. That one who needs you to extend yourself and your compassion, according to Jesus, is your next-door neighbor. They may live on another street. They may live across town. They may live in another city or another state halfway across the country, but they are your neighbors. They are my neighbors. They are our neighbors. They are black, and they are crying out. We can notice them, hear them, and come alongside them.
Ask God to help you put away all of the arguments and statistics you use to prove why black people who may not be near you are not your neighbors. Ask Him to help you set aside whatever it is that would cause you to walk around people affected by racial injustice. Ask God to give you a heart that listens to the hearts of others. Ask Him to place you directly in an opportunity to be the unexpected neighbor a black person or a black family never knew they had.
An essential step to embracing your role in pursuing racial reconciliation is asking God to make you the neighbor, "The one who had mercy on him."