Home > Opinion > Z - Archived Opinion Writers > Watson, Don > 2011 >
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Who is Not my Neighbor
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Submitted: May 1, 2011

The Religious Leaders of Jesus day were always checking out Jesus' law-keeping.  He was soft on sin.  That's the only explanation.  After all, His entire disciple-base was tax collectors, loose women, common rabble, the sick and deformed - "sinners."   The Pharisees, however, prided themselves that they refused to "water down" their teachings like He did.  They would not lower church standards just so they would get the kind of crowds Jesus did.  He didn't fool them - In "His Church" people could do whatever they wanted.  It was like sin didn't matter.  His followers seemed happy, carefree, in fact, unconcerned about their sins.  It was like, they had no clue how bad they were, and He certainly didn't seem to take the trouble to point it out.  Regardless what they did or how many times they did it, He forgave them.  He seemed to totally accept them exactly as they were, unchanged.  And with virtually no effort or sacrifice on their part, they ate, drank, and danced - celebrating their life in Jesus' presence.  Either He was deceiving them in order to secure a large following, or His theology was demonically screwed up. 

So the religious leaders constantly peppered Jesus with questions about the Law.  He obviously had no regard for it.  It didn't seem to matter that these people He hung around with broke it, ignored it, and trampled all over it.  So over and over again the religious leaders sent people to pound Him with questions only to return saying, "Never has a man spoken like this man."  But they had to expose Him, so they didn't let up.  This time a lawyer approaches Him. 

"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? [Jesus realized what he was implying - "If the people You hang out with is any indication, there would seem to be no requirements!  But Jesus calmly replied . . .]

"What is written in the law? What does it say?

  "And he replied, '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 your neighbor as yourself.

  "And he said to him, 'Good answer: do what you said, and you'll live.

  "But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, And who is my neighbor?"   (Luke 10:29)

 No brilliant, new information there. Sixteen hundred years before, Moses had summarized the Ten Commandments with two:  Love God, and love your neighbor (Lev. 19:18).  But endless debates had taken place among the teachers of the Law trying to define who was their neighbor.   And certainly the associations of Jesus seemed anything but in harmony with the traditions set up by the religious to protect the purity of God's Holy People. They interpreted God's rules as condemning association with pagans, gentiles, and Samaritans.  If they touched certain kinds of "sinners" they were "unclean."  Women were inferior to men.  The poor, sick and handicapped were obviously under the curse of God and must be avoided.  Tax collectors were traitors to God's people:  hence, so sinful that one must cross to the other side of the street to avoid contamination.  So defining "neighbor" was no simple task.  Jesus was trapped.  They had Him.

Instead of answering, Jesus told them a story.  A Jew is robbed on his way to Jerusalem and left to die.  A priest and a Levite, probably on their way to worship or serve in the temple, happen to come by.  To stop would ceremonially contaminate them and cause them inconvenience.  They most likely would miss appointments, ruin their clothes with blood and dirt, have to disqualify themselves for temple service, and cost them precious time and money.  Besides, they themselves could be robbed if they stopped to help. So they "passed by on the other side" (Luke 10:31-32).  But then a Samaritan came by and had pity on him, bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey [Now he had to walk] and took him to an hotel, paid for his room and medical treatment and promised to come back and pay more later.  Then Jesus asked

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36)  So Jesus lets the lawyer answer the question, and behold the trap has disappeared.  He didn't belittle the man like the man had sought to belittle Him.  This lawyer had just been confronted by the Son of God, the embodiment of the Law and love and found himself the neighbor - loved not by the Jew next door but God of all men - a universe away.  He who rejected the gentiles and Samaritans around him found himself the object of God's unconditional love.

Paul, Jew of all Jews, had discovered that in God's Kingdom, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise"  (Gal 3:28-29)  And again, "In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us" (Col 3:11).

 So who is NOT your neighbor.  We all have them, you know - "not-neighbors".  Just like the Religious Leaders of Jesus' day, there are people we feel superior to, people we feel are not deserving of our love and help.  They deserve what they get.  We are in God's favor and they are not.   Let the Holy Spirit find yours and when He does, stop by the side of the road, right then, and tend to that person's wounds. 

Prayerfully find yours here:    Liberal, Conservative, Rich people, Poor people, Politicians, Police officers, Criminals, Lawyers, Ugly people, Beautiful people, the man with one arm, the child with the withered Cerebral Palsied hand and foot, handicapped, mentally challenged, smart people, Garbage collectors, Golfers, Truck drivers, Taxi drivers, Lexus drivers, Slow drivers, Tailgaters, Artists, Scientists, Evolutionists, Creationists, Socialists, Capitalists, Welfare recipients, Public Servants, Blue collar workers, White collar workers, Telemarketers, Televangelists, Feminists, Chauvinists, Contemporary, Traditionalist, Progressive, Homemakers, Home wreckers, Homosexuals, Heterosexuals, Transsexuals, Heterosexuals, Students, Teachers, Street people, Salesmen, Atheists, Religious, Blacks, Whites, Reds, Yellows, Blondes, Brunettes, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Prisoners, Men, Women, Adults, Children, Therapists, Famous people, Prostitutes, Pedophiles, Fat people, Skinny people, Dog people, Cat people, Tennessee fans, USF fans, Vegetarians, Vegans, Carnivores, Conformists, Anarchists, Hippies, Yuppies, Long hair, Tattoo people, Virgins, Drinkers, Teetotalers, Rockers, Country music people.  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.

You would think that embracing this kind of acceptance would create a world of peace, but as we all know, this radical kind of acceptance caused the death of Jesus and some of the worst persecution our world has ever seen.  That's why Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth;  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." Matthew 10:34.   We are all the Priest and the Levite who passed the man on the other side.  Opening ourselves up to the scrutinizing light of the gospel is our only hope.  1 John 1:7 declares if we will do it, it will produce sweet fellowship with each other, and it gives permission to Jesus to "cleanse us of all sin."  Only Jesus can make us the Samaritan.  So who is NOT your neighbor?


Pat Travis
2011-05-04 3:09 PM

Donnie,

Are you from Atlanta and AUA? If so, we once were playmates in the 50's.

As to your question. All are our neighbors but biblically, I suggest only believers are our "brothers and sisters."

regards,
pat

Don Watson
2011-05-17 2:41 PM

Of course, Pat. Great to hear from you. Contact me sometime via my email: don.watson2009@comcast.net

Just a word about your comments. I don't believe that the texts you have quoted exclude all people as my brothers and sisters, so much as they assure us that in Christ we have a wonderful family who all know they are loved accepted and forgiven by God so in a special sense are part of God's Family. I choose to include every man, woman and child as my brother and sister, because we all have the same Father, even though they may not know Him yet. But I prefer an inclusive attitude towards them. great to open the dialogue.

Elaine Nelson
2011-05-05 4:29 PM

Pat if we are all "God's children" why are we not brothers and sisters?

Pat Travis
2011-05-05 4:52 PM

Elaine,

Perhaps these texts can help inform my comment.Jn.6:29;Mk.3:32-35;Mt.10:40-42; Mt.12:46-50.. I suggest, the context of Mt.25:40-46 is usually taken out of the context that Christ applied to "His disciples" and not "humanity as a whole who indeed are our neighbor's."

While in a sense all are God's children all are not saved children and members of the Kingdom of Christ and thus "brothers,sisters,son's and daughters." Gal.3:26,27.

regards,
pat

Kudo's to the web manager for posting the ongoing comments on the homepage where we can interact with an ongoing conversation!

Don Watson
2011-05-17 3:54 PM

Your reference to Mk 3:32-35 as an indication that only those who believe are the brothers, sisters, mother, father of Jesus, is not what the intent of this passage was. Jesus' relatives felt like they had special access to Jesus because they were relatives and thus more deserving of His immediate attention. His intent here is not to exclude people who haven't heard of Him or don't understand His claims on their life as yet (The non-Christian world), but on the contrary, to let all of us know that we (Those of us who have discovered we are His children and those who have not yet discovered that Good News)have direct access to His love and attention. It is a passage of INCLUSION rather than EXCLUSION.

Don Watson
2011-05-17 4:10 PM

Also your text in Gal 3 above is not excluding those who don't believe yet, it is simply explaining how we come to KNOW we are sons and daughters of God (By faith, by believing). It doesn't mean that people who don't grasp the gospel yet are NOT God's children. I believe the fact is: They simply don't KNOW they are yet. They don't KNOW how much they are loved yet, accepted yet, forgiven yet. God's great purpose in our salvation is not so much to get us to heaven (Though that will certainly happen!) but to reconcile us back to Himself. He lost us in the garden. The cross is to get us back. (See 2 Cor 5:18,19 and Romans 5:10) They WAY He gets us back is by getting the good news to us that He is "not counting our sins against us (2 Cor 5:18-19) All God's children were kidnapped at the Garden of Eden, but ransomed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus bought us back. It's God's goodness (In saving us) that "leads us to repentance (Romans 2:1-4)". And Pat, this is not theology that we are merely sparring about. This is what changed my life. When I realized God hadn't cast me off, or condemned me while I was so failing at life, that won my heart and caused me to know I was not cast off, but already forgiven and accepted as a sinner. This is really real to me, not merely doctrine. We are so loved by our Father - That's the good news we have to take to the world. He is their Father as well. At least that's the way I see it so far in my journey. Much love, Pat. Don

Elaine Nelson
2011-05-06 3:11 PM

Pat, it is not up to us to judge who are "saved and who are not. The Matt. 25 last comments do not specify who Jesus is referring to. Their only qualifications do not list any religious beliefs, only the actions--which are often found in even Humanists.
God will separate the sheep from the goats and has not left us to make such separation.

Don Watson
2011-05-17 4:19 PM

What if Jesus, by His death, judged us all forgiven and therefore saved (See Romans 5:9)? What if in His eyes we are all wheat? What might be the response from the world if we all treated them all like wheat rather than "tares?" Now He has not taken away our choice (In fact He died to reinstate our choice that Adam took away by His sin), so we can certainly reject that salvation, but what if it is ours if we will simply not resist the Holy Spirit's work in our life. Note: Romans 5:9 & 10 says we WERE justified and we WERE reconciled by Jesus Death. That's past tense. What would be the implications of that in the way we relate to "heathen?" Is the gospel good news, or just possible good news? Just some thoughts.

Pat Travis
2011-05-17 4:49 PM

Donnie,

Atonement has been made by Christ. It is sufficient for all but it must be received by faith. We were justiifed WHEN we believed.Rom.5:1


Pat Travis
2011-05-06 3:20 PM

Elaine,

I agree we can not judge who is ultimately saved and who is not...but contextually in the NT Christ is clear who are His "brothers and sisters." It is those who believe in Him.

A blessing is promised to those who assisted them in their mission to spread the gospel of Christ in many adversities.

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Mt.25:40. (NIV)

regards,
pat

Don Watson
2011-05-17 4:24 PM

I think we would be hard pressed to interpret this call to take care of "the least of these" as only applying to Christians. It almost seems to be a parallel appeal to the good samaritan parable. Hence He equates "least of these" with "My bretheren." It is this kind of inclusive God who is so appealing to the world that we take the Gospel to. In fact is that not THE Good News? God loves sinners unconditionally. We would never be attracted to a God who condemns.

Pat Travis
2011-05-17 4:31 PM

Donnie the sentiment is good but what on earth could this mean? Likewise the context of his disciples that I scripturally gave you?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.Jn.3:16-17

PS. Did you have a brother named Lanier? My brothers were Joe and Don.
Regards,
pat

Anonymous
2011-05-15 5:41 PM

Appreciate the feedback, folks. Paragraphs for simple formatting is needed, as is a preview, or some self-edit capacity. Appreciate your patiej
nce as well.-----------------------------------Sadly, is it not human nature to seize on the minutest that divides us, and label/marginalize accordingly, than accept the enormity of what unites us both as humans and as children of God? Once a label is applied, does it become easy to exclude, "because they are not one of US?"

Pat Travis
2011-05-15 9:37 PM

Enter comment here...

Pat Travis
2011-05-15 9:42 PM

Well,

The sensitivity of my windows or your program posted before I said anything above...but Timo...I suggest the meaning of "US" is everything. Why? Because believers have entered the kingdom of Christ and are the saved "children of God"...His brothers, sisters, and mother. I suggest the final deception is all are "god's children" without the necessity of Christ.

regards,
pat

Anonymous
2011-05-16 8:45 AM

Perhaps the unasked question is; Who is my enemy? Am i jstified in rejecting EVEN HIM?.-----------------------Pat, this is a deception is distinct possibility. Yet, a "jealous God" (difficult word in our accepted lexicon) suggests my not choosing (sure inheritance in) Him precludes me from promise. Oh that ALL might instead choose...---------I'll suggest UNTIL the final deception has transpired, ALL are US. Do we too readily reject many as NOT our brothers, solely on arbitrary and capricious basis of our interpretation of deed or doctrine? (whether consensus or personal, matters not. Functionally a rejection, by me, of one God still strives with)---------On a personal note, just last week i encountered rather vitriolic attack by a child of God who called me "satan himself," ostensibly because i have some social network friends who are the current pariah; "new age".

Pat Travis
2011-05-16 2:39 PM

Timo,

You ask valid questions yet, I suggest your focus is misplaced to my comments. The fact remains that those who do not resond to the gospel message are "God's enemies" and God's wrath remains on them.

Now the believers function is to spread the gospel of Christ for forgiveness of sins...appropriated theough the individual by repentance and acceptance.

Ours is not to judge outcomes but God's alone. However, only beleivers are our brothers and sisters...while all in need are legitimately our neighbors. So all are our neighbors but importantly all are not our "brothers and sisters in Christ." Are we to hate them? No. Are we to recognize that by remaining in a state of unbelief they remain under God's judgment? Yes...and that is why we are to both warn and give the "relief" of the gospel message to all.

Hope this clarifies my meaning...which I maintain is biblical and contextual regarding the matter. Regards, pat

Anonymous
2011-05-16 8:47 PM

Resolvable easily enough, thank you Pat.
Agreed, impossible absent accepting inheritance through Christ to be
"child of God".---------------------
I might add, someone not "YET" responding to gospel message may be an indictment of what perhaps is NOT the gospel being preached. ALL are "potentially" brothers and sisters; the adoption papers are still open.
God tarries, perhaps, for this very reason?------------------Enemies, brothers, lovers, parents; did Jesus make a distinction?



Pat Travis
2011-05-16 9:43 PM

>>Enemies, brothers, lovers, parents; did Jesus make a distinction?

Elaine Nelson
2011-05-17 11:56 AM

If God can call all of us his children, wouldn't that make all of us brothers and sisters? Excluding those who are not "believers" as not our brothers and sisters leads to an exclusivity which is abhorent. Why try to "convert" people into Christianity if they are not our brothers until their conversion? Can they only be our brothers when they are converted to our form of Christianity?

Who, then, is not our brother? All Christians? Only Adventists? Is the Jew? the Muslim? How is "believer" defined?

Elaine Nelson
2011-05-17 11:56 AM

If God can call all of us his children, wouldn't that make all of us brothers and sisters? Excluding those who are not "believers" as not our brothers and sisters leads to an exclusivity which is abhorent. Why try to "convert" people into Christianity if they are not our brothers until their conversion? Can they only be our brothers when they are converted to our form of Christianity?

Who, then, is not our brother? All Christians? Only Adventists? Is the Jew? the Muslim? How is "believer" defined?

Pat Travis
2011-05-17 12:21 PM

A believer in Christ for salvation is just that Elaine...that is what makes one a Christian and it does not have denominational barriers. Jews, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindu's are not our "brothers and sisters" in Christ. That seems self explanatory and a no brainer.:>)

The Christian gospel offers salvation in Christ not as "one way" but the only door. If one chooses another way fine...but they are not our "brothers and sisters" as described by Christ and the NT.

I understand the "world's desire" for secular inclusivism. However "religious inclusivism for salvation" is not a NT or OT biblical option.

regards,pat

Elaine Nelson
2011-05-17 3:24 PM

Humans see the externals, but God sees the heart. It is He who will decide who are His children, and when there are millions in the kingdom who are not "believers" in Him, will the "believers" reject them whom God has chosen?

Pat Travis
2011-05-17 4:02 PM

Gal.4:4-7,Rom.9:8. The "promise" of children are to those not of the flesh but spiritually in Christ.

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