good samaritan

The Real Secret to Being a Good Neighbor

The Most Interesting Part of the Good Samaritan Story

The last few weeks I’ve been speaking & writing about the story Jesus once told about the Good Samaritan in this series called, “Next Door as it is in Heaven.”

What’s most interesting to me about this famous story is that when you step back from the story, what you see is the real story.

Not the parable Jesus is telling about what happened “Once upon a time” when one man got hurt & a Samaritan man came by & helped.

But the real story, the story that’s actually taking place in this moment in this interaction, this conversation between Jesus – the Son of God, God in the flesh, God that didn’t just come across the road but came from heaven to earth – & this religious expert, this self proclaimed, self-centered, self-indulgent, self-consumed man who is a know it all but doesn’t know anything at all because he’s missing it.

The one who claims to be an expert in the Law & the Prophets is missing the One that the Law & the Prophets is pointing toward. Now that One is sitting before him having a conversation with him.  Jesus loved him enough to come from heaven to earth to stop at this point on the road to Jerusalem to have this moment with this man because He loved him enough to stop & help when He could have kept on walking by. But He didn’t.

Jesus didn’t keep on walking.

He’s on the way to Jerusalem to face & embrace the cross. But on the road to Jerusalem he stops to love this man who doesn’t know how badly he needs Jesus to stop & help him.

So the question for you & me today isn’t, How can we be less like the religious expert in the story & more like the Good Samaritan.

The question is, “How can we be more like Jesus?”

I’ve probably read this story a thousand times before this thought hit me, that Jesus is the ultimate good neighbor in the story because Jesus traveled the greatest distance & when he saw the one in greatest need he stopped his journey to save the world to have a conversation with this man who needed to experience the love of God.

So what happens when you see people the way Jesus sees people?

I really want to see people the way Jesus sees people. Jesus looks at this religious scholar, this man who was trying to trick Jesus with his words & questions, this know it all that would have totally annoyed me, & Jesus loved him.

Jesus looks at the Samaritans who had recently turned him away & wouldn’t let him come into their town & he loved them. He makes them the hero of one of the most famous stories he ever told.

Over & over again, this is what Jesus does. He looks on people that you & I would have built fences to keep them far away & He loves them.

He chooses 12 men that were disqualified by every other Rabbi in town to be disciples, & he makes them his disciples.

He has dinner over & over again with those who by all standards are far from God, & what’s amazing, they love him. Sinners love Jesus. They’re not intimidated by him. They don’t feel judged by him. They love him. They feel welcomed by him. Sinners love Jesus & Jesus loves sinners.

All Jesus does at every turn is take down fences that people who claim to know him have put up. The religious people hate him for it. But everyone else loves him for it.

So, how do we love who Jesus loves the way Jesus loves?

I think there’s only one way, one hope for us.

I think the only way you & I will ever have a chance to love people the way Jesus loves people is for us to stop trying to BE Jesus & for us to start LOOKING for Jesus.

Another friend of Jesus named Matthew tells us about another story Jesus once told. Listen to what Jesus said here…

Matthew 25.31-40
“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Jesus again gives a different answer than you & I might have given about how you get to heaven.

Here, Jesus says the way to eternal life is by serving the least of these.

It’s by seeing the hungry & feeding the hungry. It’s by seeing the thirsty & giving drink to the thirsty. It’s by seeing the stranger & inviting the stranger into your home. It’s by seeing the one who needs clothes & giving them something to wear. It’s by seeing the one who is sick & caring for them. It’s when you visit the ones who are in prison.

And then Jesus drops this astonishing bomb, this incredible insight… Jesus says whenever you do this, you’re doing it to Jesus!

All this time we’ve put so much focus on being Jesus, on seeing ourselves as Jesus, of wanting to be his hands & feet, of wanting to be His presence in the community, of wanting to be His light in the darkness.

Then Jesus turns that on it’s head & says… No. Don’t try to be me. You’ll fail at that every time. Don’t try to BE ME. Try to SEE ME.

See me in those that are different than you, whoever they are. See me in the person that annoys you. See me in the person who hurt you. See me in people.

Why?

Why would Jesus say this?

Well, let me ask you this question… What would you not do for Jesus? Is there anything you wouldn’t do for Jesus?

What happens when you & I stop trying to be Jesus & instead we start trying to see Jesus in every person around us. When that happens, everything changes.

Because…

When we see Jesus in others we’re compelled to serve others in love.

When we see Jesus in others what we don’t see are fences. We stop seeing those things that threaten us, that divide us, that separate us.

To see people through the lens of the cross is to see Jesus on the cross dying for the person we’re looking at!

So take this story out of the hypothetical. Jesus is talking to you today. Sitting across the table. And here’s what he wants to say to you. Love me. Love these people I’ve put around you. Without limits. Without strings. Without contingencies.

See Jesus in others around you today & love them.

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.