The one thing I did not cover in my recent post on the Good Samaritan story (and came up in a discussion with a friend afterwards) is that Jesus never did answer the question of who. The man asked who his neighbor was, but Jesus answered the question of how to be a good neighbor and told him to “go and do likewise.”
Not my neighbor, not my problem…
I was reminded of that again when discussing my frustration with social media. I’ve noticed how cute pictures and funny stories get dozens of likes or shares. However, when I posted a link to a woman with a real need and asked people who couldn’t give to like or share it the response was astonishing. It was zilch, nada, nothing…
I was lamenting that lack of response to another friend. They defended it saying that people get many requests for help and that I could sympathize with. But what was said next disturbed me coming from a person familiar with the story Jesus told about how to be a good neighbor. They suggested the “Biblical method” is that this woman’s family or local church should provide.
“If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48 NIV)
That doesn’t seem like the ethic Jesus was describing. I don’t think the Samaritan cared much about jurisdiction or if it was his turn to give. I believe he saw a need, saw a person who needed help and simply gave it. That’s what it means to love your neighbor. That’s the example Jesus told the legal expert to follow.
On the other hand, I assume those men who passed by the battered man along the road were in good standing in their own communities, provided for their own families and gave tithe. But doesn’t everyone do that? We take care of our own because it is natural to do so, it is reciprocal altruism and a way to ensure our own survive.
Loving beyond the tribe of race, gender or denomination…
Yet Jesus was describing something far more radical. Jesus went as far as to tell his followers to hate their own families (Luke 14:26) and give all they had to the needy. This goes beyond the normal religious obligation of his day. This goes beyond defending our own biological progeny. It is a love bigger than nation, denomination and tribe.
Jesus preached (and those who continued to carry his message) against tribalism. They forsook their own wealth and families to preach a revolutionary message about a kingdom made up of all tribes and nations. They spoke of a kingdom where allegiances didn’t fall around race, gender or economic status. A kingdom of good neighbors.
Disturbed by visions too superficial, self-interested and small…
“Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.”
Anyhow, it does disturb me when social media prefers a political cause (showers attention both for and against a pizza shop owner caught in an artificial controversy) and then ignores a real need. Our priorities are messed up when we are more concerned with scoring political points and fighting culture wars.
It disturbs me when millions will be poured into political campaigns rather than used to meet real needs. Frankly, if you conservatives don’t think we need socialized medicine or if you liberals truly have a heart of compassion, then prove it with more than talk. Help somebody you can help rather than wait for others to take the lead for you.
It disturbs me when churches spend thousands on missions of questionable value to give young people an experience. If you are truly zealous and motivated by love (not self-interested like a kid on spring break trip justified by a thin veneer of religion) then be a good neighbor.
It disturbs me when our love is superficial. Our love is only superficial when we like cute pictures, comment on funny stories, advocate for political ideologies, seek donations so we can go on an adventure around the world and then aren’t disturbed by unfilled needs well within our reach.
As it stands, the account for this nurse and young mother with severe neck issues stands at $360 and only a fraction of the need. Does that disturb you?