Stewardship of our Presence 1
Neighbours without Borders (Luke 10: 25 – 37)
Our Sunday mornings are usually characterised by one familiar event. Very early in the morning, almost without fail, our neighbour begins to wake us up by loudly issuing instructions to her family. It starts by calling them by name. After that there is a long discussion on the things that need to be done. Shortly thereafter the quarrelling begins. Why they are not done. And almost every Sunday, we ask ourselves the question, “What is wrong”. And Yoland also asks, “Am I like that?”
Our neighbour is a school, and Sunday morning is the day the real neighbour feels like she owns the home. No children in school on Sunday. Our neighbour is the caretaker’s wife and she has no reservations in making it known that she owns the compound. All of it and her voice dominates it. I wonder if she knows that the entire row of our estate hears her. I wonder if she cares that we hear her. I wonder if she thinks that she cannot be heard beyond the walls. She has become a neighbour without boundaries. And if you think this is all about her, one day our wall collapsed after a heavy rain. And so I went to inspect it and there was the caretaker, just standing there. And when he saw me his face lit up. Ah! Finally the neighbours had met. I cannot remember the details of our brief discussion but what I can remember is that it ended with a request for me to buy him some sugar. We were already sharing groceries after 5 minutes. He truly became a neighbour without boundaries because there was a gap in the wall. Lets just say that the discussion ended there and the wall came up quickly thereafter.
Turn with me to the familiar parable of Jesus of the Good Samaritan. I will read from the version in Luke 10:25 – 37 (read).
Today we begin our September series titled Stewardship of our Presence. How can we have an influence on the people and community God has placed us in at home, away from home, at work and other social and formal places. How can we live out the LIFE of Jesus in such a way that people are drawn to the source of that LIFE?
In the story of the Good Samaritan, the focus has often been on the response to the question of the teacher, “Who is my neighbour”. However must not forget where this discourse began in v 25
25 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 – “What is written in the law?” He replied. “How do you read it?”
27 – He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
There is a sense in which the law sought to demonstrate that our love for the Lord needs to translate into our love for people. That was not good enough for the expert. As an expert in the law, he knew that the definition of neighbour was selective. For example, the Jews did not consider the Samaritan a neighbour. They were people too low in the social pecking order to be brought into this equation. Technically, a neighbour was a fellow Jew. It may have been with this in mind that the expert asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour”. A loaded question it was but a LIFE answer was the response from Jesus in this parable.
I said earlier that the focus has often been on the differences between the religious leaders who passed by the injured man and the lower class Samaritan who did an unexpected thing. As we ask the question, “How can we be good stewards of our presence in the community”? I would like us then to attend to the characteristics of the Good Samaritan rather than the differences between him and the other two.
Compassion and courage: The internet has a way of bringing us stories from far and wide. I will not forget a video I saw a few years ago from the Japan or China. It was about a girl who was knocked down by a hit and run car. It was not even the initial hit that was shocking. It was the fact that after that nobody had the courage to remove the body from the road. What followed was that the little girl was run over by about 5 cars as people watched. No one had the courage to get onto the road and remove the girl. But also nobody seemed to have the compassion to respond after she was first hit. People just kept away on the other side.
Granted it is a tricky thing to try and stop for an injured person lying on Outer Ring Rd or Ngong Rd in the middle of the night. Such people have a tendency of resurrecting and then multiplying and then attending to you in such a way that eventually you switch positions with them and they leave you there instead. The sinfulness of people has killed most people’s ability to have compassion and has taken away our courage. But we must still look for those opportunities with wisdom.
The Samaritan man could not just pass by a man who was suffering and in extreme physical agony. His heart was moved to do something about it. It required courage to stop on a road where there were people bound to jump you. It took even more courage to carry the man and, with an extra load, increase your risk. But the man had compassion, and it did not matter that the injured man would easily have spat on him at any another time. He felt for the man and stopped to attend to him. This was Jesus telling about himself in this story. For in Matthew 9, it talks about how He went to all the towns and villages, preaching the Good News and healing the sick. V 36 says, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd”. Jesus was asking in this parable that this kingdom or LIFE quality, which he shares with us through His Spirit would be demonstrated in the lives of those who in loving the Father would love their neighbours too. “But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was ; and when he saw him had pity on him” (v33).
Action and Generosity:
34 – He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.
35 – The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
The Samaritan without hesitation translated his pity into action. He did not, like the others, pass by. He stopped and attended to the man. I am informed that it would have been very inconveniencing for the Levite and priest to attend to the man. It would have meant being impure if the man was dead or at the very least bleeding. According to the Law they would have been in isolation. Heading back to their homes, they would have not have been able to interact with their families after being away on duty in Jerusalem. It was a therefore a NO.
But the Samaritan had bigger issues. He knew the cost of helping this man. It is a little like that of helping someone on the road here in Kenya and taking them to the hospital only for you to be accused of being the one who knocked them. Well, if the Samaritan was found helping the Jew, we presume, he would have been the first suspect, no question. Yet he did not think of what this would cost him let alone the time and inconvenience of delaying his journey.
Not only that. He went beyond the call of civic duty. It would have been sufficient for him to leave the man at a safe place where his own people would have attended to him. At the very most he would have left him at the equivalent of a public hospital where he would have received medical attention. But no: He went the extra mile to administer first aid, put him on the donkey as he walked, took care of him overnight and when he had to leave the next day, settled the bill and promised to return to take care of any extra cost. He was not only a man of action but generosity as well.
Once again I suggest to your thinking that Jesus was talking about LIFE qualities that are not beyond our ability, but are made available to us through His Spirit, and as He provides for our needs. When our neighbour needs help in the middle of the night it will be mighty inconvenient, but can you go the extra mile and help them get to the hospital. When we remember our encouragement from Psalm 24:1, all that we are and all that we have has been given to us by God. This then enables to move to the place of action by adding that it has been given to us for our enjoyment but also for the extension of God’s kingdom.
At this point our compassion and courage, our action and generosity become mission – living out the LIFE of Jesus in such a way that people are drawn to the source of that LIFE. And that mission then comes out of being like the Samaritan – Neighbours without Borders.