Who is my neighbor?

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(image courtesy of turnbacktogod.com)

If I were to ask you, Dear Reader, what is a good Samaritan, I am confident that many would relate the parable Jesus told that has come to be known as The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

In case you need a quick refresher, here is my synopsis: Jesus, in response to the question, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ tells this famous parable. In it a man traveling the 16 miles between Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed and beaten as he traveled. A priest and a Levite, see the injured man and deliberately pass by on the opposite side of him, not giving any kind of help to someone who clearly needed some.

Then comes our Samaritan, a social outcast in this setting, who lends what would have been life-saving assistance at the scene. He then transported the injured traveler to an inn, where he pays in advance for the care the injured man will need as he recovers.

Jesus used this parable to get his questioner to think about who exactly is a neighbor. When the man answered that it was the one who showed mercy, Jesus told him he was correct. But He also told him to go and do likewise.

As I mulled this over today, Luke 10:25-37 was part of my daily bible reading, I too got to thinking about just who is my neighbor. The answer is not as straight forward as I might want it to be. Oh, there are my next-door neighbors; the elderly couple with the seemingly countless grand kids and on the other side the married couple with two young daughters. Across the street is another older couple and a single mom of 2 teenagers. These are my neighbors. We are all on friendly terms and make ourselves available to help one another as needed.

This seemingly fulfills what Jesus is saying, but only to a point. Being ‘neighborly’ is important and should be done with a glad heart, but if it is as far as I take the question of who is my neighbor, it is terribly short-sighted.

If I am to be obedient to the teaching of Jesus in this regard, I must take a much broader view of who my neighbor is. Clearly, Jesus wants each of us to consider all others as a ‘neighbor,’ especially when someone is in need.

Being a good neighbor in the context of what Jesus is teaching is to have the willingness to give of yourself to help another. Under the Lord’s direction, there is no room at all for social bias or injustice. Both the priest and the Levite in the parable were duty-bound to help, yet they passed on the other side of the road, ignoring the need simply because they did not want to get their hands dirty on someone who they felt was beneath them.

The good neighbor in this parable cut through all the layers of dislike, distrust and disdain and simply rendered assistance.

 I would like to think that if I were in there instead of the Samaritan, I would have stopped to help as well. But being honest, I know that the perceived tightness of my schedule has caused me to join that priest and Levite in passing by a need from time to time. Typing these words makes me cringe at my selfishness and I ask God to forgive me of my hard heart. And while I am asking of the Lord, please also prevent judgment to worm its way into my mind.

With this now fresh in my heart, I am confident that should I come across someone in need to today, I will offer assistance. That is right and good of course, but I believe there are still things I can be doing for others even if I do not happen upon someone who has been robbed and beaten. In other words, I can be pro-active in helping out.

For example, there is a soup kitchen here in town that is always in need of volunteers. I also know of a home-bound person who may need a prescription picked up today. Perhaps there is another person that I know is struggling with loneliness. Today is a good day to call to say “Hello, I am thinking of you today.”

My point, to both me and you, is that there is plenty of need out there. We do not have to look to long or far to see it. May I encourage you to be a Good Samaritan today. I believe that when Jesus said, “Go and do likewise,” He included us in that direction.

I would love to hear how you have been moved to help others or perhaps share a unique way others can reach out to fill needs.

Thanks so much for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

What an Opportunity!

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image courtesy of finerminds.com

Though I wonder what I might be writing about on March 15th, 2021, there seems to be little else on peoples mind right now than the global spread of coronavirus/covid-19.  Like many, I initially thought the talk of precautions, quarantines and physical distancing were all huge over-reactions.  I watched as stores were picked clean like buzzards on a carcass and wondered what was wrong with people.

However, as I have carefully done my research on this issue, I have jumped fully on-board with the ideas and practices that will help reduce the spread of this new threat. This in turn allow our health care providers to be better able to treat those most adversely affected by it.

Having said this, please know, Faithful Reader, that I am not advocating sticking our head in the sand in hopes it all goes away quickly.  Truthfully, I have no idea when things will return to the ‘normal’ I know and am comfortable in.

What I propose, and admittedly I should have been doing these things long before corona came along, is to seize every opportunity to be of help to those around us.  But try as I might, there is no way I can personally help everyone that I would like to.  Knowing this limitation, here is what I’m doing and I strongly encourage you to consider doing something similar: As I look out the front window of our little house, I see 3 homes across the street that are each inhabited by widows, all in excess of 70 years of age.  My plan, as soon as I publish this, is to walk across the street to each of these three in order to ask if they need anything.  Can I go to the store for you? Maybe I have something on hand that you need? Or maybe they will allow to simply pray with them.  I’ll make sure I leave my number with them should they need me later.

You get the idea.  Let’s take the opportunity circumstances have thrust upon us and literally be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own world.  I will take all the appropriate precautions when doing this, for their protection, mine and anyone else I may come in contact with.  But I will do it.

Please consider this for yourself.  We have been given the chance to step up as a people.  Let’s take advantage of the opportunity!

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Chuck

Somebody is Watching

Hello Faithful Reader! As the title of this entry implies, all that we do is being watched by someone.  Bearing in mind the times in which we live, this is not a hard sell.  We must be ever-vigilant in protecting our identities from theft.  Big Brother is seemingly everywhere, up to and including that intersection you just ran a red light thru!  Indeed, our every action seems to be under scrutiny by someone or something all the time.

However, as I like to do, allow me to put a more positive spin on the above stated fact.  I know a great many people who go about their lives doing for others simply from the goodness of their hearts.  No compensation is required or even looked for.  They see opportunities to help and take action.  These folks aren’t looking for recognition and most prefer to fly under the radar.  Whatever the motivation is, the willingness to help can be a great encouragement to others.

If you are one of these helpful-minded folks, thank you! I realize that the vast majority of you are simply doing what you know to be the right thing to do.  But let me encourage you to remember, people are watching!  And I mean this in the best of ways.  Your actions of sacrifice or words of kindness are being observed.  You may never know who is noticing, but be sure that someone has, is, or will.

I recently received an encouragement that has spawned this entry.  I have volunteered for a number of years at a local care-giving agency.  The little bit of my time that I have given to this cause has been returned in countless blessings to me.  In the mail yesterday I received another.  Among the fliers, bills and campaign literature was a letter addressed to yours truly.  It was from the national office of my local agency.  The letter, with my first name handwritten on top, informed me that I was one of only 140 people who had been nominated, nationwide, as volunteer of the year!  Though it went on to contain their condolences that I was not selected, the honor of being a nominee was not lost on me.

As I pondered this further, I became aware that it had to be someone within the local agency that had given my name for consideration for this prestigious award..  What an honor indeed! On the heels of this thought came the realization that caused me to share this brief piece with you, someone is always watching.  If we accept that as an on-going reality of our times, why not let what is being watched be seen as an encouragement to others.

Blessings to you and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck