When something is good it sticks. It hits our hearts and is easy to connect with. Whether it is a marketing ad that tugs out the tears, a story of sacrifice to better the world, or a neighbor just being neighborly, goodness is contagious, or at least it should be.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkHsCl2Kgjw&width=450&height=283[/embedyt]
State Farm’s jingle, “Like A Good Neighbor,” is effective in advertising not just because it is a catchy tune, but because of what they are claiming. Good neighbors are there when needed. There is no prequalification as to race, ideology, religion, etc. They even show up for cone heads in outer space. They don’t check to make sure your values align with theirs. No. For their customers, at least the paying ones, if you need them they are there. One has to wonder if their marketing department is well-versed in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
A few weeks back I was asked to preach on Genesis 1:27, 31 and Luke 10:25-37. I wondered for days how to reconcile the two. They do not appear to have anything in common. How do you move from “All of it was good!” to a nitpicky expert in the law wanting clarification on who exactly he needed to love in order to enter heaven. There is such a big jump there. From perfection to dissection.
(Click here to listen to the original audio of “>Like A Good Neighbor- Love Well)
So much is lost in translation. What’s lost does not bring clarification to the gap but rather widens it. When we say in Genesis 1:31 that God looked at creation and said it was very good it’s like saying Michaelangelo stepped back from creating David and said, “oh… well that’s nice.”
The same Hebrew word that we translate into “very” in this verse can also be translated into exceedingly, abundance of, greatly, force, and muchness. And we stick to “very.” In The Message it translates it as “God looked over everything he had made; it was so good, so very good!” Of the translations I’ve looked at I think this gets closer to a creator stepping back from his work and declaring – That! That right there! I nailed it and it is breathtakingly amazing.
Fast-forward a couple thousand years maybe more, and God comes to earth as Jesus. Because, well, we need him to help restore that goodness. It didn’t stick. We’ve messed up and lost our focus, we’ve misused creation and fallen from our creator so he shows up to restore us to that breathtakingly amazing that had been created for us. And we start to nitpick the details.
In Luke 10, an expert in the law stood up and tried to stump Jesus. And in true Jesus fashion he responded with a question. This expert wasn’t satisfied and tried to turn the question back on Christ, asking him to define his terms. He needed clarification–a definition of “neighbor.”
Don’t we all want that? We need a list of tasks to check off and say, “Ok, done.” We want to know the bare minimum to get by.
Love doesn’t work like that and neither does God.
Loopholes and Nitpicking
I have to wonder if this expert was looking for a loophole. If our first verse from Genesis 1:31 is true, if God looked at what God had created and said “All of it was good, so very good!” then why is it hard to love our neighbors? After all, they are God’s creation.
Shouldn’t it be easy to love what is breathtakingly good? I know there have been a few people in my own life who I’ve struggled to love, some who, when I see them walking my direction, all I want to do is run and hide. But God calls us to stop, to turn around, and to love them as Christ loved them.
Christ did not answer this expert by saying the man or woman beside you, or the one who lives righteously, or those with the same nationality/viewpoints/ religious affiliation/ or politics. No. That would have been too easy.
Christ just didn’t do easy. Instead he took the burden off of the one receiving help entirely and placed it solely on the one who witnessed the need.
After all, the one bleeding and dying on the side of the road isn’t capable of anything. Breathing is his sole focus, crying out for help appears to exceed his capabilities.
Too Busy to Help
The two religious leaders in the story, the two one would expect or at least hope would extend aid, for whatever reason went out of their way to avoid the injured man’s need. Instead a Samaritan (whom Jews thought very little of) extended unconditional help.
As always, when Christ starts talking to or about the religious leaders, I feel convicted. I’ve walked across the street before out of busyness, not knowing how to meet a need, or just not even seeing it. I get so caught up in the demands of ministry at times that I miss the one lying at my feet.
Busyness and scheduled goodness do not excuse me or you.
Our neighbors are more reachable today then they probably ever have been before. Our neighbor might be that co-worker one or two cubicles over who grates on our nerves because they don’t see the world as we do. It might be the person whose ethnicity is not the same as ours (like the Jew and the Samaritan in today’s reading). Or the person who goes to that other church down the road, the weird one that doesn’t do things like us. And all of those people, the people we see daily who baffle us in the workplace or at the grocery store or on the street corner, are our neighbors and we should love them as Christ did.
As Fort Bliss Military Spouse of the Year 2015, Hope N. Griffin writes about her experience as a military spouse. Hope has an MABS from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the author of Finding Joy: The Year Apart That Made Me A Better Wife. Currently, Hope serves as the Director of Family Ministries at First Presbyterian in El Paso, TX. You can follow her at www.HopeNGriffin.com and facebook.com/HopeNGriffin[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]