The Good American

The Good American
Pastor Stephen "Red" Shumate
February 21st, 1016
Image courtesy of Dr Joseph Valks at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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The Good American

Luke 10:25-37
25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the law?” [Jesus] asked him. “How do you read it?”
27 [The Expert] answered:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.
28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”


1.  The Expert
Our scripture today starts out with an Expert in the law.  “25 Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him,"  Now this guy knew what scriptures said.  In fact, he would have known it backwards and forwards, inside and out.  He probably could have quoted you every law there was and probably what paragraph, subsection and page number it was on, too.  He Knew the Law!

So the purpose of him standing up was not to actually ask Jesus a question, but instead it was to try to trick Jesus.   But Jesus, as usual, makes the wisdom of the wise sound foolish…And so Jesus deflected his first question by asking him the same question.

Now if this guy had been smart, this is where he would have sat back down and learned that he was no match for Jesus Christ…but like many people we may know, he just couldn’t let it go and had to try to prove a point.

29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

2.  The Question…the Real question?

"Who is my neighbor?" ...The guy who is the expert in the law…just asked Jesus who his neighbor was.  But this is not what he was really asking.

Often times in life, we try to justify what we want to do instead of doing what we know we should do.  For instance we might ask,  “Do I have to…  Give money to the guy on the corner?”
The reason we ask the question is because in our heart, we really don’t want to give to someone we might consider “truly” needy, but in our heads we know the scripture tells us to give to the poor.

So, since we have this conflict, we try to justify why we might not “have to” give to someone.  We might tell ourselves - Scripture tells us to take care of the widows and the poor…BUT it tells us to make sure they are fed, clothed and have shelter…  It doesn’t say anything about giving cash money.  And it’s pretty obvious that the guy on the corner is clothed and fed and has shelter, so, therefore, I don’t ‘have to’ give to him.

The problem is, while this answer may be technically correct, it isn’t the heart of the command. The heart of the command is taking care of people, it is not for us to determine whether they deserve it or fit the qualifications.

But this is what this expert in the law is doing by asking Jesus this question.  He is trying to get Jesus to agree with him…so that he can be justified in who he considers his neighbor or doesn’t consider his neighbor as the case may be.

So the REAL question he was asking is…
There are some people I don’t have to love, right?

30 Jesus took up the question 

And this is where Jesus gives us the parable of the good Samaritan.

Vs 30 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

3. Jesus’ Response
The Levite and priest- 
Now Jesus’ response, starts out with a priest and a Levite.  Both the Levite and the priest would have known the scriptures backwards and forwards, and they would have known the command to love your neighbor.  Additionally, people would have looked to the Levites and priests as authorities on what would have been considered right and law abiding.

But then Jesus introduces us to the Samaritan.

A few weeks ago, we learned a little bit about the Samaritan and their history with the Jewish people…it was not a friendly one. And ultimately, the Jewish people looked down on the Samaritans and certainly wouldn’t have looked to them for spiritual guidance.  And yet, here we see Jesus using a Samaritan in his example.

The Samaritan
33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’
36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.
Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”


As a side note…
Typically speaking, when we hear this message we pretty much hear the message that our neighbor is can be anyone, particularly someone in need.  And instead of crossing the street and looking the other way, we should be kind and help one another.  But there is one nuance that I think we sometimes overlook that can become important to us…Jesus asked “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”  He did not ask who was a neighbor to this guy…that answer would have been all three…but instead it was who “proved” himself to be a neighbor.  And when we look at it from this point of view, it puts some responsibility on us for proving ourselves a neighbor.

Jesus gave the expert an answer top his question of “Who is my neighbor” when He said “Go and do the same.” But as we said earlier, that really wasn’t what the expert was asking.  What he was really asking, was - can I justify what I am doing?

And Jesus’ answer covers this too…And He did that by using a priest, a Levite and Samaritan in his answer. The priest and the Levite, may have been technically correct in their actions:  The guy who had been beaten up and robbed may not have been not their neighbor, or perhaps, they may have thought the guy was dead and they were trying to follow Levitical law and not touch a dead body.

But Jesus’ point was…that’s not the heart of the law. What is at the heart of the law is compassion…“But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.” Compassion- not technicality- is at the heart of the law. So really what Jesus was saying was - Go and do what is right…not what you can justify.

4. Our Application
In this story we are the expert.  We tend to justify what we want to do and what we don’t want to do, even though we really know that is not the heart of the law!

Have you ever said…
It’s not really a lie…
I’m not really putting work before God, because God gave me the job.
or
Do I have to really have to …
     Volunteer at church
     answer his call…
     pray every day...
     read the bible?

There are any number of ways we try to justify our actions or inaction.  We make excuses and we try to get away with stuff on technicalities…But here is the point that Jesus makes by using a Samaritan.  There are people out there, who are not Christians, who aren’t pastors, who aren’t going to church, but who ARE doing what is right while many “Christians” are trying to get out of doing things on technicalities.

The title of this message is the good American.  And a few weeks ago, we looked at how Americans are our modern day Samaritans.  They have false (hybrid) religions. They adopt part of our faith but not all of it.  They have a world view Christianity, that does not include a saving faith.  

And because they have different views, they accept people we don’t accept, they do things we don’t do, and they are pulling our youth away from God, we tend to look at these people with animosity and as bad influence, just as the Jewish people would have looked at Samaritans.

And yet, many of these people are the ones who are doing what is right, because it is written on their hearts, and many of us are trying to figure out ways we can get out it.

It’s not very hard to look around our nation today to see some Non-Christian, atheists, Muslims, and world view Christianity Americans out there, who are treating people, who have been beat up and left for spiritual death, with much more compassion than we ever have.  

Some of them (not all) have far more compassion for homeless people than we do…Particularly homeless on purpose people.

Some of them have far more compassion for people with addiction who are high on…you name it…than we do.  Instead, we cross to the other side of the street, and let someone else get them help.

Some of them have far more compassion and love for drunks, for homosexuals and transgender, for prostitutes, for criminals, than we ever have…

Some of them, not all of them, understand the moral law that is written on their hearts far better than we do.

And for some of “US” it is time to stop justifying our actions and it time for us to do what God is telling us to do, and what Jesus implies here…

Just go do what is right. Not what is technically right…


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