by Pastor Randy Shannon
Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Primary Scriptures: Luke 10: 25-37
Luke 10: 27-29 “…‘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.’ ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But (the expert in the law) wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus. ‘And who is my neighbor?’
The news of these past weeks—with protests occurring in city after city around this country—sparked most recently by the death of George Floyd at the hands…or should I say knee…of a Minneapolis police officer—seems to demand that we address this issue: What would Jesus say about the Black Lives Matter movement? Many people have responded to the Black Lives Matter movement by saying All Lives Matter. This, of course, is true but no matter how sincere and well-meaning they are, this response is often seen as ignoring the problem, or down-playing its significance.
As I read recently, if your wife asked you if you loved her and you responded “I love everyone,” your answer would be true, but hurtful. A young, African-American student who I follow on Facebook posted recently: “I’ve seen a lot of this recently, but I feel I need to say … All lives matter is a protest to the protest … If you agree there’s a problem do something about it.”
I won’t pretend to understand what it feels like to be a person of color in our country. I have never felt judged solely based on the color of my skin. But I can tell you my heart has been breaking this week for our country. For those who cry out for justice. For those who have suffered loss. I believe Jesus might address our world with the words of the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10. It emphasizes what Jesus calls the two Greatest Commandments. Love for God and love for others. Like the expert in the Law, who admitted that the way to life was to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves — we may be guilty of wanting to justify ourselves by asking “Who is my neighbor?”
There are people who propose that when Jesus says we are to love one another, he only means to love other Christians. That allows them to hate many of those that they would like to hate. But Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan gives us a totally different view. It was the religious people — the priest and the Levite — who ignored the man who was beaten and left to die by robbers. I’m sure they had many good arguments for why they ignored the man in need: perhaps he deserved what he got … maybe he was part of a trap and they would be attacked if they stopped to help … perhaps he was dead already and if they came into contact with a dead body they would have to go through a period of ritual cleansing which would cause them to miss important responsibilities. Fear was likely one of the reasons why the priest and the Levite were unwilling to help.
The fact that Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the one to demonstrate how to live the way that God would have us live was no doubt a surprise to his audience. Samaritans were considered “dogs” by the good people of Jesus’ day … half-breeds who were considered unclean. The normal Jewish person travelling from Jerusalem to Galilee would cross the Jordan River and go around Samaria rather than dirty themselves by going the straight route to Galilee through Samaria. What would Jesus say to us today? 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.’ Jesus said, the merciful Samaritan is what a neighbor looks like and when you read the stories of how Jesus ministered to the oppressed, the possessed and the distressed, it is clear that Jesus was their neighbor.
To borrow a phrase from Mr. Rogers, I believe Jesus would ask “Wouldn’t you like to be a neighbor, too?” Follow me. Do what I do! Furthermore, when I think of what Jesus would say to us about the mess our country is in, I think he would say the words he spoke in Matthew 7: 12: “… in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Imagine what this world would be like if we would all practice these words. Think of some of the things that have happened in the past few weeks … the things that haunt you on the nightly news … and ask “How would this be different if we truly followed Jesus and treated others as we would have them treat us … if we loved them and granted them the grace that we are so quick to grant ourselves?” Three men had a chance to be a neighbor to a man in need that day: a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. Which one are you?