A sermon idea based on the story of the Good Samaritan, from Luke 10:25-37.
And who is my neighbor?
That was the question that ruined a perfectly good conversation between Jesus and a Jewish legal scholar one day.
And in all honesty, it’s still ruining a lot of conversations (and relationships, too) today.
In one of the most familiar stories in the Bible, Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question with the parable of the good Samaritan.
A man (with no particular identity other than being a man) was beaten up on the long, dangerous journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. Both a priest and a Levite passed by the injured man, offering no assistance. Finally, a Samaritan offered help. And then more help.
The Samaritan man in the story went above and beyond in terms of helping the beaten man, putting him up safely to recover, and paying his bills.
The underlying point Jesus was making to the lawyer was pretty blunt. While you’re trying to figure out the bare minimum requirement you must meet to be able to say you’ve loved people, a Samaritan is doing more than anyone would expect to help a total stranger while knowing nothing about him other than the fact that he’d been beaten.
And for this Jewish lawyer, there would have been an assumption that the Samaritan man in the story was of a totally different class, race, and religion than the priest and the Levite.
I love that Jesus puts a twist at the end of the story with his question. We assume the injured man is the central character of Jesus’ illustration and that it is he whom we must see as our neighbor – the one in need. But no. Jesus asks which of the three was the neighbor? The lawyer was stuck. There was only one right answer.
I get the feeling there was a bit of animosity in the voice of the lawyer in his response, in which he is unwilling to actually say, “the Samaritan.” He simply says, “the one who showed him mercy.”
We, as church people, suffer from the same flawed thinking as that lawyer sometimes. We look around at a world filled with people from all different walks of life and we qualify some as more deserving of love and favor than others. We group people in all kinds of ways – by ethnicity, nationality, religion, socio-economic status, gender, sexuality, etc. We find our camp, so to speak, and we avoid contact with the others as much as possible.
But Jesus’ point was pretty clear. The Samaritan is your neighbor, like it or not.
There’s a t-shirt I love sold by The Happy Givers in their “Love thy” collection.
The words on the t-shirt read:
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY IMMIGRANT NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY BLACK NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY ATHEIST NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY MUSLIM NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY DEPRESSED NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY CONSERVATIVE NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY LGBTQIA NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY DISABLED NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY INDIGENOUS NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY JEWISH NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY PROGRESSIVE NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY INCARCERATED NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY HOMELESS NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY LATINX NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY ADDICTED NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY MILENNIAL NEIGHBOR
LOVE THY ____________ NEIGHBOR
And the point is clear. You don’t have to issue qualifiers about who your neighbor is or who is more worthy or deserving of love. It’s ALL of them. There are no qualifiers. It isn’t, love your neighbor if you agree with them or love your neighbor if they’re of the same faith as you. It’s just, love your neighbor no matter what.
The lawyer wasn’t asking about how to go to heaven upon death. Our minds usually go there anytime we read something about “eternal life,” but the language suggests the lawyer really wanted to know, how can I possess all the blessings of the eternal kind of life God promises?
Tony Evans writes,
This concept of inheritance involves not merely entering the kingdom, which is by faith alone in Christ alone, but receiving the rewards and quality of life associated with following God.
And Jesus’ answer is pretty clear. If you want to live in the joy God intends for you in this life and beyond, then you’ll love all of your neighbors, without condition and without exception.
So how do we do that? Jesus uses the word “do.” You go and DO likewise.
In other words, it’s not enough to simply SAY that you love everyone. You must show it. You show your love for all others by showing hospitality, by being empathetic and compassionate toward suffering, and by giving whatever resources you have toward the healing of those who are broken and hurting, no matter who they are.
About the Cover Art: Good Samaritan, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. Original Source.
My Other Favorite Source of Sermon Ideas
MinistryPass offers excellent sermon series ideas, graphics, and resources for pastors and teachers, including expository, topical, textual, and lectionary-based ideas, plus calendars for organizing it all. MinistryPass is, in my opinion, the best all-around, complete sermon series planning resource on the web.