In 1918, German pediatrician Ernst Moro discovered a similarity in all newborns. It is called the Moro reflex. If a newborn is startled, its arms will fly up and out, then come together in a desperate clutch. This isn’t a learned behavior. It is preloaded into our lives and for the rest of our lives we never outgrow the desire to reach out for love when life startles us.
We live in a busy world and people just don’t have time to stop and show love to others. Everybody’s worried about their own life and issues and we can’t take our minds off of our own troubles. But, like a newborn, when life startles us we attempt to reach out for help and comfort.
We find a very familiar story in the Bible – Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan – in Luke 10:25-37. Even nonChristians have heard of the Good Samaritan. If you’ve ever put together a Christmas box, it goes to Samaritan’s Purse. We even have Good Samaritan Laws for people that try to help others. The largest organization of RV owners in the world is called Good Sam Club. But what the story of the Good Samaritan tells us to do is to take time to stop and help someone by asking 3 questions.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10:25-28)
A religious man asked a question (How to inherit eternal life?), not for information, but to challenge Jesus. He did it to tempt him. He was right that eternal life is obtained by inheritance – you must be an heir. No amount of doing will give you eternal life. Jesus sent him back to the Law, not because the Law saves but because it shows we need to be saved. Jesus and the religious leader agreed – Love is the fulfillment of the Law. It’s all about relationships.
Go to the Law to receive direction for eternal life. All have broken God’s Law. But He loves us and sent Jesus to pay for our sins. Anyone who loves Him and receives Jesus as your personal Savior will have their sin debt paid and He will give eternal life (John 3:16).
But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (Luke 10:29-35)
The man knew God but needed help knowing his neighbor. Jesus told a parable. A man took a dangerous trip and was robbed and left for dead. Two religious leaders walked around him. They may have been busy, didn’t want to become unclean, or possibly feared for their own lives. Regardless, they did nothing to help. But a Samaritan man stopped to help. Samaritans were hated by Jews. He applied first aid, gave him his donkey, took him to an inn and paid the bill. In answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” the answer is anyone I can help.
Wesley Autrey was just an average New Yorker, waiting for the subway on January 2, 2007. But in an instant, Wesley became a hero. While he waited on the subway platform, Wesley watched a man collapse and fall onto the train tracks. He heard the sound of the subway train coming, and he knew what he had to do. Wesley jumped down onto the tracks. Wesley could tell that the train was not going to be able to stop in time, so he acted quickly. He rolled himself and the man into a narrow ditch in the middle of the tracks, and the train rolled over the pair, barely missing them but ultimately not hurting them. Because of his incredible bravery and quick thinking, Wesley was able to save another man’s life! One newspaper called him the “Subway Hero.” Another simply said he was a “Good Samaritan.”
We discover three philosophies of life in this story. The thieves said, “What’s yours is yours. I’ll take it.” The 2 religious leaders said, “What’s mine is mine. I’ll keep it.” The Good Samaritan said, “What’s mine is yours. I’ll give it.”
Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:36-37)
You may not have caught what Jesus did. Trying to evade responsibility, the religious leader asked “Who is my neighbor?” But Jesus asked, “Which of these three men was neighbor to the victim?” The big question is not “Who is my neighbor” but “To whom can I be a neighbor?” Even this man’s answer was showed his prejudice because he didn’t use the word ‘Samaritan’. He answered that it was the one who showed mercy. Jesus told him to mimic the actions of the Samaritan.
The question is not who is my neighbor but if I am a true neighbor. It’s not out there, it’s in here. This has nothing to do with geography, citizenship, or race. Wherever people need us, there we can be a neighbor, and like Jesus, show mercy. Often people’s problems can be things we discuss answer. We can discuss things like poverty and job opportunities and yet never personally help feed a hungry family or help somebody find a job. A good neighbor stops and helps.
To be a neighbor we should:
- Stop and help even when we may get in trouble ourself.
- Stop and help even for someone of a nation, culture or religion that is different from ours.
- Stop and help in practical, sacrificial ways. Not just feeling sorry for them.
Even though this was simply a fictional story, it was really a test. Who will be the good neighbor? Like these religious leaders, most pass by those who need help. But Jesus highlights the one who stops and offers practical help just because someone needs help.
A man who had no interest in spiritual matters related casually to the Christian next door—they talked over the back fence, borrowed lawn mowers, stuff like that. Then the non-Christian’s wife was stricken with cancer, and she died three. Here’s part of a letter he wrote afterward: I was in total despair. I went through the funeral preparations and the service like I was in a trance. After the service I went to the path along the river and walked all night. But I didn’t walk alone. My neighbor—afraid for me, I guess—stayed with me all night. He didn’t speak; he didn’t even walk beside me. He just followed me. When the sun finally came up over the river, he came over and said, “Let’s go get some breakfast.” I go to church now. My neighbor’s church. A religion that can produce the kind of caring and love my neighbor showed me is something I want to find out more about. I want to love and be loved like that for the rest of my life.