“And who is my neighbor?” – Luke 10:29
Back in the 1950s and ’60s, there was a popular comic strip called Pogo. Even though Pogo was an opossum, he offered some wonderful insights about life. In one strip, Pogo was sitting beside a swamp fishing. Before long, a duck swam to the shore, waddled up and sat down beside him. The duck asked, “Has you see’d my cousin? He’s migrating north by kiddy car.” Pogo responded, “By kiddy car? Why don’t he fly?” The duck said, “Oh, he’s afraid of flying. He’s afraid he’s gonna fall.” A bit perplexed, Pogo asked, “Then why don’t he swim?” The duck responded, “Oh, he never swims. When he swims he gets seasick.” In complete frustration, Pogo looked at the duck and says, “When your cousin decided to be a duck, he entered the wrong business!”
I’m curious. If Pogo looked at the life of the average Christian, what would he see, and what would he say? Would he see Christians who refuse to do the basic things that Jesus has called every Christian to do? I’m afraid he might say, “When you decided to be a Christian, you entered the wrong business!” Theologian Haddon Robinson summarized Pogo’s insights this way: “Blessed is the duck who, when he decides to be a duck, does what ducks are supposed to do!” We could say much the same thing about Christians: Blessed is the follower of Christ, who when he decides to be a follower of Christ, does what followers of Christ are supposed to do.
In Luke 10, Jesus gave one of his most memorable illustrations of what followers of Christ are supposed to do in the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan. An “expert” in the law had asked Jesus to interpret the Old Testament law, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). In Luke 10: 29, the man asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Evidently this legal eagle thought Jesus would say that his neighbor was the guy next door in his upper-middle-class neighborhood, or his fellow Jewish leader at the temple. Never in a million years would he have imagined that Jesus would single out a half-dead mugging victim as his neighbor.
You probably know the story well. A certain man was traveling alone on a dangerous road. Some robbers pounced on him, beat him up, stole his clothes and belongings, and left him for dead at the side of the road. Afterward two separate men, a priest and a Levite, came down the road and saw him lying there. But instead of helping him, each man scooted to the other side of the road and kept walking. After all, according to Jewish law, they would be deemed ceremonially unclean for a full week if they touched a man who ended up dying. Obviously, both of these religious leaders valued ceremonial cleanliness more the fate of a dying stranger. But when a lowly Samaritan came by, he had compassion on the injured man—and his actions proved it. He knelt beside the man and treated his wounds. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to the nearest inn and paid the innkeeper to take care of him for as long as needed.
After telling the story, Jesus turned to the Jewish legal expert and asked him the simple question: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The man responded, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus, in a nutshell, told him, “That’s what God means when he tells you to love your neighbor. Go and do the same thing that the Samaritan did.”
A marvelous insight can be gleaned from this parable. In the words of Chuck Swindoll: “What you ARE determines what you SEE, and what you SEE determines what you DO.” In the parable, all three men saw the half-dead man on the side of the road. But why didn’t the first two men do anything to help him? Because what we do is determined by what we see. And when they saw the man on the side of the road, they saw an inconvenience, a waste of their precious time, a blemish on their ceremonial purity.
And why did they see the man that way? Because of what they were. They were religious snobs. Their religion was all head and no heart. When their religion really could make a difference in someone’s life, they took a pass. The priest and Levite didn’t DO the right thing, because they didn’t SEE the hurting man through the eyes of Jesus. And they didn’t SEE the hurting man through the eyes of Jesus because they were not followers of Jesus. What you are determines what you see, and what you see determines what you do.
So, let me ask you: What are you? Are you a new creation in Christ? If so, you will see people as Jesus sees them. You will see them as his favorite creation, in need of his love—no matter who they are, no matter what they look like, no matter how undeserving they might seem. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you will see every man, woman and child as your neighbor, someone who is fair game for Christ’s mercy and compassion and love to be extended through you. Like the Good Samaritan, you and I must see people the way Jesus sees people, because of what we are: faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville and the author of "Holy Huldah: Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of." For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com, and join us for our Worship Celebration Sundays at 10 a.m.