who is my neighbor?

Exactly WHO is my neighbor?

How many of you love to find loopholes?

I came across this story a couple of weeks ago. This is a picture of Reb Beatty.

Reb is an assistant professor at a Community College in Maryland. This year he’s teaching Financial Accounting, a course he’s taught for many years.

Every year, when he gives his class their first exam, he allows his students to bring a 3×5 card with as much information as they can fit on it to help them with the test.

This year, Professor Beatty had a student in his class named Elijah Bowen.

Elijah noticed that his professor had nowhere specified the measurement unit in his 3×5 card instructions. So Elijah showed up with a 3 foot by 5 foot notecard with all his notes for the test!

Of course, Professor Beaty quickly looked back at his syllabus & all the printed instructions given & sure enough, he had not specified the measurements, all he had written down was that it had to be a 3×5 card.

So he had to allow Elijah to use this 3’x5’ card for the test!


Spiritual Loopholes

I think many of us tend to do this in life, we look for the loopholes. We look for ways to get out of things that are hard for us & do the things we want, or at least the things that are easiest.

And this mentality creeps into our spiritual lives as well.

So here’s what we do… we would never say this out loud, but we think this to ourselves…

I know Jesus says… but what I really want is…

I know Jesus says we should love each other the way He loves us, but can you believe what he did to me?

I know Jesus says we should be generous givers, what Jesus really wants is for me to be happy so I’ll give a little but i’m going to use the rest to buy this thing that I really want & I’ll use it for church, or for my small group, or we’ll have people over to enjoy it.

I know Jesus said that when we do good things we shouldn’t let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, but I really want to post this awesome picture of me doing something awesome for someone else on social media so everyone can see how awesome I am & what a good Christian I am.

I know what Jesus said, but what I really want is…

and so what I’m going to do is to create a loophole so that I can say I did it technically, so I can justify myself with other people & with God, so that I can keep God happy but also get what I want which will make me happy.

What we’ve decided is that perhaps the best thing we can do is look for the loopholes, find ways to do the bare minimum so that we can still do what we’re supposed to do, so that we can still “get into heaven.”

But I have to wonder, is this the kind of life Jesus is calling us to?

Does that sound like abundant life to you?

Do you think God wants us looking for loopholes or doing the bare minimum to be saved?

And will you ever be really happy by living life your way instead of God’s way?

And what would life look like if we went all in with God?

Looking for a Loophole

So Jesus is approached by a religious expert & I want you to hear his second question to Jesus.

Just as a reminder, here’s how the conversation started…

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” Luke 10.25-28

This is where the conversation gets even more interesting. This religious expert wants to justify his question, so he asks Jesus another question…

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10.29

I like how Eugene Peterson translates this in the Message. He says it this way:
Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

Looking for a loophole? Trying to justify himself? I think I know what this religious expert was doing. I think he was doing the exact same thing you & I do all the time.

The religious expert was looking for the narrowest definition possible. Jesus, tell me, what’s the bare minimum? He was trying to figure out a way to rationalize his behavior, what he had done & what he had not done, in such a way that he could still get by & be ok with God.

Tell me what you think I need to do then let me see if I can find a loophole to do less & technically still get into heaven!

Let me see if I can rationalize my behavior, spin it in such a way, that I can be ok with God without really having to change anything about my life.

What if we just did what Jesus said?

Here’s an idea, what if we just did what Jesus said & loved our actual neighbors?

The religious scholar asked Jesus for a definition, but what he got was a story. We call this story Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s the story that gives us a definition of what it means to be a good neighbor.

And like this story that Jesus told, some of us have actual neighbors that look different, think different, believe different, behave different. But the one thing we all have in common is basic human need. And whenever basic human need is met with the kindness & compassion of Christ, neighbors become friends.

And there are also people you go to school with, go to work with, play music with, play sports with, interact with at the gym, at the store, wherever… & these people need you to be a good neighbor to them too. And whenever you meet their basic human need with the kindness & compassion of Christ, neighbors become friends.

And part of what I believe Jesus wants us to do is to let the love of God for others break through into this world, into the lives of other people, through us. I believe God wants to leverage our influence with those around us so that they can experience His love through us.

God wants to leverage you to love others.

What if instead of looking for loopholes about who to love, we just loved the people next door?

What if the question of “Who?” wasn’t limiting, but freeing?

Jesus said, don’t look to limit who you love. Just love who you’re near.

So look around this week. Chances are, there’s going to be someone walking around defeated this week. They need you to love them, encourage them, lift them up & help them get back on their feet.

Look around this week. There’s going to be someone that’s been a victim of a loophole. The people closest to them did as little as possible for them & now they’re left on the side of the road trying to figure out what’s next. They need you to love them, encourage them, lift them up & get them back on their feet.

There’s going to be someone you can help this week. Someone you can encourage. Someone you can support.

They may live next door or down the street. They may be in the office across the hall or in the class next door. I don’t know exactly, but let’s open our eyes to see those in need around us.

Don’t look for a loophole to get out of it. Instead, be the first to respond.

And maybe, just maybe, together we can make things next door as they are in heaven.

To hear the full message click to watch or to listen.

I serve as the Preaching Minister at Riverside Church of Christ in Coppell, TX. I enjoy sports, running, fishing & life with the family. I’ve been in ministry since 1999. My wife Alisha & I have three amazing children, Will, Ella Grace & Emma Love. Thanks for stopping by my blog.