Like a Good Neighbor! - What does a “good neighbor” do?
A good neighbor shows mercy!
Maybe it’s just me, but it feels bit sticky up here today! And here’s the reason why? They were good sports! I want to say thanks to the 125 volunteers for loving on nearly 300 kids this past week at VBS! Trust God no matter what! Could there be a better lesson? How many of you have ever been pulled over by a Police Officer? Notice my hand is raised too! Did you ever think of giving that police officer an excuse for why you were doing what you were doing? Police Officers get allot of excuses thrown their way. For instance:
Sergeant Dave Hoffman, of the Naperville, Illinois PD said, “One night he was on patrol and observed a vehicle blow through a red light at a major intersection. There had been plenty of time to stop, yet the vehicle did not even try to slow down. So, Sergeant Hoffman stopped the car and asked the young female driver why she blew through the red light. And here’s her excuse: “Officer, I just had my brakes repaired, the cost was expensive, and I DIDN'T WANT TO WEAR THEM DOWN!”[i] He gave her a ticket!
If you think those excuses are bad. Check out one more! Turn in your Bibles today to Luke 10! If you need a Bible today just raise your hand! One favor as well. The Westerville 4th of July Parade is this Wednesday! The theme is Peace, Love, Trust and Freedom! Here are 2 ways to help. Loan us your cooler especially if it has wheels. OR Walk in the parade and help us pass out 10,000 freezie pops. Something tells me people are going to want therm.
Today we finish this short three week series called, “Like a Good Neighbor!” As a church we should serve our neighbor so my natural question was – just what does it mean to be a good neighbor? Jesus gives us the answer by telling this story. Find Luke 10:30! Read 30-33!
I haven’t said much about the priest and Levite – at least anything positive. Let’s see if they have an excuse. Maybe their excuse was so good or so pressing that it justifies their actions? Are you willing to give them a fair shot? Let’s call these men what they are – clergy! Religious folks. We have a priest. “Priests were regarded as the most holy men among Jews.”[iii] “The primary job of a priest was to officiate at the temple sacrifices.”[iv] A priest was concerned with sacred rites. A priest willingly chose to devote their lives to God! You also have a Levite! Levites were 2nd in line to priests in regards to holiness. Levites did not offer the actual sacrifice. They simply maintained the temple itself. Now tell me – of the three people Jesus brought up – a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan – which TWO should have been a slam dunk when it comes to being neighborly?
But they didn’t! Why? Here’s their excuse. Dr. Mark Moore writes, “Priests and Levites were obligated to remain ceremonially clean while on duty, about four weeks out of the year!”[v] Go back to the end of verse 30. “They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” What happens to either a priest or Levite if they touch what appears to be a dead body? They now become ceremonially unclean! Neither can perform their temple duties. Here’s their excuse. It’s perfect, except for one minor detail. Go back to the beginning of verse 30! "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…”
That excuse would be great except they are going the wrong direction! They are not going TO but FROM Jerusalem. They are leaving Jerusalem. Their temple responsibilities are over except… What else might a priest do in Jerusalem besides offer sacrifices? How about read and study the law? They forgot what they had read – what they had been taught. Namely what the prophet Micah said. Micah 6:8: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Find verse 36 in Luke 10! Read 36-37! How is it possible that we can be so close to God and yet so far from him? We are talking about a priest and a Levite. They were outwardly perfect and inwardly a mess! I used to think THIS! I show my love for God by going to church and reading my Bible and giving my money! But I can fake all of those! I’m in worship but I’m not engaged. I’m in the word, but just to say I’ve read today! I gave my money, but only to look good!
Their MC Hammer excuse (You can’t touch this ½ dead body) is lame according to Jesus because being a good neighbor means showing mercy! And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Now just what is mercy? The Bible paints a beautiful picture. Mercy is “kindness, compassion and pity!” To be merciful is “to show kindness, compassion and pity!”[vi]
And just what does it mean to show mercy? A firefighter is washing a fire truck outside the station when he notices a little girl next door in a little red wagon with little ladders hung off the side and a garden hose tightly coiled in the middle. The girl is wearing a firefighter's helmet and has the wagon tied to a dog and cat. The firefighter walks over to take a closer look. "That sure is a nice fire truck," the firefighter says with admiration. "Thanks," the little girl says.
The firefighter looks a little closer and notices the girl has tied the wagon to the dog's collar and to the cat's tail. "Little partner," the firefighter says, "I don't want to tell you how to run your fire truck, but if you were to tie that rope around the cat's collar, I think you could go faster." The little girl replied, /"You're probably right, but then I would lose my siren."[vii] /Mercy would be – to remove the rope from the cat’s tail!
I received a news agency text message this past Thursday. Here’s what it said. Sandra Inman has pleaded guilty to all charges in the death of her daughter-in-law, Summer. Sandra Inman faces a sentence of 15 years to life. Authorities said Summer Inman was abducted on March 22, 2011 and forced into a car outside a Logan, Ohio bank where she worked. She was strangled and dumped in a septic tank behind Faith Tabernacle Church in Athens County where her body was found one week later.[viii] The three who abducted her were her estranged husband, his Dad and his Mom, Sandra Inman! You know she was pleading for her life, but not one of the three was willing to show her mercy!
Two would-be car thieves in Denmark turned themselves into police to avoid the wrath of their “ticked off” victim. The owner of the car the thieves stole saw what happened. He witnessed the crime. SO, he hops into another car and begins chasing the thieves. According to the paper, when the 19 and 21-year-old thieves realized the victim was chasing them, they decided to call police and report themselves. Instead of facing the angry car owner, they arranged for the police to pick them up at a nearby intersection.
Now isn’t that wild? Two thieves concluded that they were more likely to receive mercy from the police, instead of the person they had just ripped off![ix] I think they were right! This guy was their enemy! Go back into Luke and find Luke 6:36.
The Samaritan showed mercy to his enemy! Read 6:36! Right here is the BIG “so what?” SAM showed mercy! So what? Why should I show mercy? Are you kidding? Because God has been merciful to us!
The giver of mercy is the one we have sinned against! And despite our sin He gives us what we don’t deserve—forgiveness and mercy! He doesn’t give us what we do deserve—punishment. On July 4th, we will once again celebrate our nation’s birthday! To live in the USA means we can be free! But real freedom comes from Jesus! (Watch this – “Free 2012” Video)
May I say, you are a beautiful thing – a beautiful picture in God’s eyes! God’s picture of us is different. He sees us through the eyes of his son! The eyes of mercy! Paul said, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
Here’s, what I think is the all-time best excuse for speeding given to a cop! “Officer, I saw this hubcap come off a car in front of me. Being the good Samaritan that I am, I stopped to pick it up and was speeding to catch back up with him to return it![x] Sorry, that’s not gonna fly. You want to be a good Samaritan – then go and show mercy! Come thank God for her mercy on your life!
[iii] Mark C. Black, College Press NIV Commentary, 216
[iv] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 375
[v] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 375
[vi] The New Strong’s Guide to Bible Words, Mercy, 166
[ix] http://www.freshsermonillustrations.net/index.html / Reuters, Car thieves Call Police For Help, January 12, 2004.