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Who is my neighbor?

By Phillip Hines 

In Luke 10a lawyer asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus did what He often would do when asked a question: He told a story!   

The story was about a man traveling on the Jericho road. He was robbed, beaten, stripped of his clothes and left half dead.   

There are many things we do not know about this man. We do not know where he was from, his purpose in that area or his name. There was only one thing Jesus wanted us to know about this man: He needed someone to help him.   

Then Jesus takes the story and shows us there are only two ways in which we might respond when we come across those who are in need. 

He tells how a priest and a Levite each came down the road and saw the man in this horrible situation. Both passed by on the other side and did not stop to assist him!   

We do not know why these religious leaders did not want to get involvedSomehow, they were able to rationalize in their minds that it would be OK to not help the manEach one managed to soothe his conscience, giving him the freedom to walk right on by the injured man.   

Maybe the priest thought the man was a Samaritan or even that he was dead. The priest would be ceremoniously unclean if he touched a dead body. Maybe both thought they needed to move on before they were also robbed and beaten.   

Friends, when we come across someone in need and begin to rationalize in our minds why we should not help, like the priest and Levite, we will usually walk by on the other side. 

As the story takes a turn, we see another way to respond to those in need. A Samaritan came by, saw the man in his condition and had compassion upon him. That compassion moved him to go to the man and take care of himHe took the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.   

At the end of the story, Jesus asked the lawyer which passerby was a neighbor to the man in need. Of course, the answer was the one who had shown mercy.  

Jesus was teaching that our neighbor is not defined by religion or race. Our neighbor is anyone with a need that we can meet.   

Three men walked by that day. Two saw a nuisance. One saw a need. As you live your daily life and pass by those in need, how do you see them? Do you try to soothe your conscience for not fulfilling a need or are you moved with compassion to do something? 

Some time back, a lady came to our building after a Wednesday night Bible class. She asked, “Can you help me? My child is in Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. I need some gas so I can get to Birmingham. Also, it would be nice to have sandwich. I haven’t had anything to eat for a while.”   

In my mind I began to rationalize. Was she telling the truth? She might be a criminal trying to get away from the police. I thought about the cost of a tank of gas. I came awfully close to telling her I could not help. I am like youI have those thoughts.   

But then I remembered the story of the Good Samaritan.  

So, I gave her a little money to buy her a sandwich and put some gas in her car. I left, thankful that on that night I did not cross over to the other side. I was glad I took advantage of the opportunity to be a good neighbor.