Are we good neighbors?
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a beloved and familiar story about the treatment of neighbors. The good neighbor is the one who has compassion and helps someone in need.
The question to be examined today is “Are we good neighbors?"
Leviticus 19:13, 18, 33, 34 (The LORD GOD speaking)
13Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
18Thou shalt not avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
33And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. 34But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
While an Israelite would almost surely regard a fellow Israelite as a neighbor, what was his attitude to be toward foreigners in their midst? God gave Israel to understand that the stranger, the foreigner, was also to be treated as a neighbor.
The commandment of the LORD was the same regarding the stranger as for the Israelite neighbor. Verse 34: Thou shalt love him as thyself. God gave Israel two reasons for loving the stranger the same as a neighbor. First, the Israelites had lived as strangers in Egypt and they were treated badly, until the Lord redeemed them. Remembering this experience, they were to show the compassion to strangers they had desired when they were strangers in Egypt.
Secondly, God reminded Israel again, “I am the Lord your God.” The Lord has a special claim on Israel for they owed Him everything, even their existence as a nation; therefore, He demanded their obedience in loving the stranger.
Matthew 22:37-40 (Jesus speaking)
37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The believer’s love for the Lord must come from the heart, the soul and the mind. The HEART refers to the seat of consciousness and emotions. The affections of the Christian are to be set on the Lord. The SOUL emphasizes the source of inner life and strength in the believer. The child of God is to depend on the Lord for inner strength and motivation. The MIND indicates the ability to think something through. This is an individual’s use of reasoning. The daily life and thinking process of the Christian is to be committed to and centered in the Lord.
The word “all” was used with each of the terms above to express depth of commitment. Full and complete commitment was the only level of commitment acceptable. Without this kind of full relationship, it would, in fact, be impossible to adequately fulfill any of the other commands.
The first and greatest is one’s relationship with God. The second most important is the Christian’s relationship with others.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
Galatians 6:9, 10
9And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
The person who is doing good and demonstrating love to others should not become weary of doing good deeds. God will reward his faithfulness.
Many things test the love of believers for others. Paul exhorted the Galatians not to become cowards in the face of the many temptations to become faint-hearted in their love.
The Christian will be some kind of witness to his neighbor. Actions and attitudes are noticed by those around us. Whatever we do, it will be seen, heard and felt by others.
Words may be spoken that communicate the message of the Gospel; however, if there is not a Christ-like spirit communicated with love in the life of the Christian, the witness will be ineffective. The witnesses may use eloquent words, but they can be marred by a lack of Christian love.
Doing good can be tiring, exhausting work. We can easily become discouraged, slack off in our efforts, or even give up. Incentive to keep doing good is vital.
Doing good, Paul implied, is like sowing seed. We may not see the harvest on the day we plant the seed, but in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
If the farmer grows tired of planting his seed and plants only half the field, he will reap only half a crop. If we want a full harvest from our planting of good deeds, we must keep on sowing, and be patient like the farmer who waits “for the precious fruit of the earth,” James 5:7. We can’t plant the seed and pick the harvest the same day.
It is tragic when believers are seen by the world to be in conspicuous need. Such a circumstance suggests that God is not capable of caring for His own. In reality, much of God’s care is delegated to other Christians. Our kindness should extend to all areas of our influence but especially to fellow believers, demonstrating our strong commitment to the Divine law of love. As we meet the needs of believers, we will also be creating an environment that will draw others into the family of God.
Well doing is right living. It is living by the moral and ethical requirements of God in relation to others. This may be generosity or mercy; it may be forgiveness or praise and it may be to rejoice with those who rejoice or to weep with those who weep. Whatever the needs of others may be, Christian concern will move us to do what is right and good for them. Opportunity imposes obligation. In a broad sense, all of life is an opportunity to do good and show concern for others.
8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
In Romans 13:8, above, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Paul was saying that people, especially Christians, must pay all just debts when due, to meet faithfully all financial and other obligations, tax money due the government, and never defraud anyone.
Paul makes one exception in the long list of possible debts. It is the one that, no matter how many times we pay it, we still owe it. That is the debt of love. It is a permanent obligation that rests upon every person who has “named the Name of Christ” as Lord and Saviour. We owe payments of respect, honor and love to all, to everyone.
Carefully analyzed, the context here suggests that one can be considered “out of debt” when he consistently makes timely payments to his creditors. The debt of love, however, is on a revolving charge. We may keep the interest paid up with regular installments, but we are forever adding to the principle. The debt to love others is never paid up. There is never a point reached where love is no longer required. We always will owe the debt of love to others. We will never come to the point of saying, “Well, I’ve loved other people enough. I’m through.” The debt of love is never paid in full.
Isaac Watts wrote the beautiful hymn which included these words:
”But drops of grief
can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
I give myself away.
Tis all that I can do.”
The capacity to love our neighbors depends much on the ability to see them as God would have us see them. Enlightened by God’s love, we will be able to see the ideal in our neighbors. That is, we will see not only what they are but what they can be by the grace of God. We will see them as loved and precious to God.
We will see what God desires them to be and is working to make them so. Love for neighbor is full of hope and lofty expectation because it springs from love for God and faith in God. Are we seeing our neighbors as God would have us see them?
The parable of the Good Samaritan is a beloved and familiar story about the treatment of neighbors. The neighbor is the one who has compassion and helps someone in need.
The question to be examined today is Are we good neighbors, as being judged by God’s loving standard?
Author: Nannie Mae Jordan
(Transcribed by Joyce Carter Transcribed and Formatted by Jerry Knight)