Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25 – 37

Who is my neighbor?


I.         Proposed question exposes problematic response.


            A.        “THE” question everyone wants to have answered...


                        1.         “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” [v 25b]


                                    a.         This was an “acid” test. The idea was to expose or confirm Jesus core theological value.


                                    b.         Many will allow others to disagree on different things if they agree on the core theological value of how one achieves (and maintains) salvation.


                        2.         Jesus respond with a question meant to cause the “expert” to think.


                                    a.         “What is written... how do you read it?” [v 26]


                                                1.)       The response/answer was well known among the Jews.


                                                2.)       The real question was how the “expert” would interpret the answer.


                                    b.         “Love the Lord your God... love your neighbor.” [v 27]


                                                1.)       Notice the “expert” gives his opinion without committing to a specific interpretation.


                                                2.)       “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied, “Do this and you will live.” [v 28]


                                                            a.)       Jesus didn’t argue, the “expert” already knew.


                                                            b.)       The REAL QUESTION is in the application.

Most heresy is in application and the attempt to justify the application.


            B.        The problem was in the application of the interpretation.


                        1.         “But he wanted to justify himself,” so he asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor.”


                                    a.         Here is the wrong question: the problem is not the persons love for a neighbor, it is love for God.


                                    b.         We seldom admit to a problem between us and God.


                        2.         Human nature verses love:


                                    a.         Human nature tends to be:


                                                1.)       Short-term. “What have you done for me lately.”


                                                2.)       Self-interested. “Look out for yourself because nobody else will.”


                                                3.)       Selfish. “What’s in this for me?”


                                                4.)       Snobbish. “Who is my neighbor?”


                                    b.         Love is contrary to human nature:


                                                1.)       Long-term. “How will this impact eternity?”


                                                2.)       Other-oriented. “Is this fair?” [One of the “four questions.”]


                                                3.)       Sacrificial. “What would Jesus do?”


                                                4.)       Uncomfortable. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Actively and intentionally seeking the good of others.)

Love is the priority BUT there is a natural gap between the expected and the actual.

In “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” a question is asked of a super computer. “What is the answer to everything?” The computer goes into a deep think and tells the askers to come back in a couple million years.” At the end of that time, the computer spits out the “answer to everything” as being 42. The ones who asked the question are angry about the answer. The computer responds, the answer is right... it was the question that was wrong.


II.       Proposed question exposes problematic theology.


            A.        The answer to everything is “Love God... love others.”


                        1.         The Law has been a tripping point for many people.


                                    a.         They are either crushed by the Law because they know they can not live up to it.


                                    b.         They become aware of the impossibility, so they look for ways to justify themselves while apparently fulfilling the Law.


                        2.         The two characters in Jesus’ story that do not help are people who would be expected to help.


                                    a.         We can only guess as to why, their motivations, for not helping.


                                    b.         Notice Jesus does not mention their motivations or judges their motivations. The real issue is their behavior.

CAUTION: whenever you think you “know” why someone did something (motivation), you have crossed a very dangerous line.


            B.        The theology behind the answer to everything:


                        1.         The Law is fulfilled in loving God and loving others. Details become unimportant when the real issue is solved. [see Matthew 22:37]


                        2.         Your love for others reflects your love for God.


                                    a.         This is why the Bible warns us to not judge others. The same way we judge others will be how we are judged.


                                    b.         This is why bitterness is a serious poison.


                                    c.         This is why Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” [Matthew 6:15]


                        3.         The closer you are to God, the more concerned you will be for those who are “lost” (do not know God, are not saved).


                                    a.         The role you play is not as important as the fact that you are deliberately moving others toward God.


                                    b.         Some will plant, some will water, and some will reap there is no difference [see 1 Corinthians 3:8]


III.      Proposed answer exposes comfort barriers.


            A.        The hero of the story was someone the Jews would have considered a villain.


                        1.         Samaritans claimed:


                                    a.         They were the true heirs of God’s love, favor, and grace.


                                    b.         They had the truth, the Jews were lying.

Sounds familiar?

NY Post (and CBS) news story about two Jew teens on the NY subway. They wished other passengers “Happy Hanukkah” A group of people on the subway started shouting anti-Jewish things mixed with unspeakable vulgarities and then physically attacked the Jews. A young man threw himself into the fray to stop them. For his trouble he received two black eyes. Later he was asked why a Muslim would intervene to save two Jewish teens. He said, “I did what I thought was right.”


                        2.         Jesus shifts the question from who do I have to love, to who loved.


                                    a.         Love is:


                                                1.)       Compassion in action. (Not just feeling.)


                                                2.)       Commitment at work. (Not just sympathy.)


                                                3.)       Consecration with aim. (Not just fuzzy or ingrown.)


                                    b.         Love will break down barriers, cross fences.


                                                1.)       “Go and do likewise.” [v 37]


                                                2.)       These words must have ended the world as the expert knew it OR hardened his heart.


            B.        Love moves us to mercy.


                        1.         Love is not determined by the object.


                                    a.         “Anyone” can love someone who is nice, kind, and loving in return.


                                    b.         Love is the presumed attitude and activity for the Christian regardless of the action, attitude, and affiliation of the other person.


                        2.         Love risks getting hurt.


                                    a.         The only people who can hurt you emotionally are the ones you care about. (Physically you will heal, emotionally it’s much harder.)


                                    b.         Betrayal, is “almost” unforgivable. Rejection scars us forever.


IV.      Proposed answer exposes true spiritual state.


            A.        What is the point were what you feel becomes what you do?


                        1.         Sometimes there is a “negative” threat: a threat to health or life. [Motivated by self interest.]


                        2.         Sometimes there is a “neutral” push: the excitement of someone else, a trend. [Motivated by others.]


                        3.         Sometimes there is a “positive” fire: you see the good to be achieved and do it. [Motivated by a greater good.]


            B.        How do we love? [the “good Samaritan’s example]


                        1.         There is emotional involvement.


                                    a.         He took pity [v 34].


                                    b.         This compassion moved him to take personal responsibility to do something about the situation regardless of his personal preferences.


                        2.         There is risk.


                                    a.         The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was notoriously dangerous.


                                    b.         He got dirty in the process... bandaged the man’s wounds [ v34].


                        3.         There is inconvenience.


                                    a.         He put the man on his own donkey [v 34]. Which meant, he had to walk the rest of the way.


                                    b.         He took care of him [v 34]. Possibly he had someplace to be or better things to do.


                        4.         There is cost.


                                    a.           He paid to have the man cared for with the promise of more, if necessary [v 35].


                                    b.         Jesus said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” [Luke 14:33]


            C.        What must we do?


                        1.         Love is priority.


                                    a.         It is the attitude and posture of love, not the object.


                                    b.         Love is includes involvement, risk, inconvenience, and cost.


                        2.         Love challenges comfort.


                                    a.         This challenge is in an active sense. We look to help instead of waiting for situations to come to us or being asked.


                                    b.         Being comfortable makes us complacent. Imagine if Jesus was not motivated by love to die for our sins...


                        3.         Love moves us to mercy.


                                    a.         At some point, the thought becomes a feeling, the feeling becomes a choice, the choice becomes an action.


                                    b.         Sometimes we are on “auto-pilot” and don’t understand everything that moves us to behave the way we do...


                        4.         Love is its own end.


                                    a.         The test of love is not who. Jesus wanted us to love those who did not or could not love us back.


                                    b.         “You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' [44] But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” [Matthew 5:43 – 45]


                                    c.         Bottom line: love is what a follower of Jesus is and does.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. [35] By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13:34 – 35]

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