Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 27, 2015

April 27, 2015 “Who Is My Neighbor?”

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3-4)

Good Morning Everyone. It’s great to be back!

These past dew days in my absence, my bride and I thoroughly enjoyed an all-too-short but nonetheless wonderful visit with our daughter, son-in-law, and beautiful five-month-old grandson, baby Jack. This was our first opportunity to meet our new grandson and it was an absolute delight. It was such a blessing to see how my daughter and son-in-law interacted with little Jack, always putting his needs above their own. Babies require almost constant attention, which they were more than willing to give, and which we were more than willing to share as well. Though demanding, it’s not a difficult sacrifice to make.

Carrying out such a sacrificial attitude beyond family members and infants is another matter, but equally as necessary and equally reflective of an attitude of love and kindness akin to the love and kindness shown to us by our Lord…a love totally undeserved. Jesus once illustrated the necessity of cultivating such an attitude in response to a question asked of him. The question was a simple one, but his answer was stunning. The question asked of him was “Who is my neighbor?” The response Jesus gave was the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan. What made this response so stunning was that Jesus’ answer was totally contrary to the attitude that his Jewish audience had towards Samaritans. They had nothing but contempt and disdain for them, and no self-respecting Jew would even speak to a Samaritan, much less consider them as “neighbors.” In Jesus’ parable, a Jew was beaten up by a band of brigands and left for dead. Two of his Jewish brethren, one a priest and the other a Levite, both “men of God”, passed by without assisting him for fear that his fate might soon become their own as well. Later, a Samaritan comes along. He ministers to the beaten man’s needs, binds up his wounds, finds him a place of shelter, and pays for his care. Jesus identifies him as the “neighbor”, giving an entirely new understanding to the term. A neighbor is defined in terms of one who renders undeserved favor to another, placing the needs of another above his own needs, and even his own safety.  The late Dr. Martin Luther King offered this description of that illustration:

“The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”  

The Samaritan was more concerned with the needs of the injured man than that of his own safety. He unhesitatingly offers his assistance to a man who under normal circumstances would have nothing whatsoever to do with him. That’s compassion. That’s what Paul meant when he wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Who is my neighbor? They’re all around you, not just next door. It’s not about me…it’s about them. The very next verse in this passage reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” What would Jesus do? The answer is clear. Emulate him. Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; Expand my understanding of who it is that is my neighbor. May my compassion increase with my understanding, for this I pray in Jesus’ Great Name. Amen!

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