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|This is an opinion article from a user of WikiChristian.|
A few years ago, Nicole and I spent a year back-packing around the world
After an early morning 6 hour flight South America, we landed in Miami in the USA
We stood in some long lines and passed through customs
It was now about midday, and we decided we’d try and make a 100 km journey to a town south of Miami called Key Largo
We worked out we’d have to catch 3 buses and 1 train to make the trip
So we jumped on the local bus with our huge backpacks and travelled to the train station, and then hopped on the train
At this stage the day started to go downhill – looking down at my wrist I noticed that my watch had been pick-pocketed from my wrist whilst we were waiting on the platform – I guess I hadn’t been pick-pocketed, I’d been pick-wristed – you’ve got to admire the theif’s skill
Anyway, at to the end of the train line we hopped on the next bus, and got off 20 minutes later at the connecting stop
Only 1 more bus to go, and then we’d reach our destination, Key Largo
The bus soon arrived, and we jumped on and chatted to a local man on the final part of the journey
He told us that accommodation in Key Largo might be just a little hard to come by, because it was “spring break”
Spring break it turned was what we call “Schoolies week”, and Key Largo is sort of an American version of the Gold Coast
Okay, well, motels would probably be booked out, but we figured we camp
So, after arriving at Key Largo, we trundled along the road to K-mart and bought a tent and hammer
We walked down the highway and found a camping ground
“Sorry, no vacancies” we we’re told
Well, we trundled up and down that freeway, as it got darker and darker looking for another camping ground
Our 20 kg back-packs were so heavy; I’m sure they weighed more like 100 kg by that stage
And so after hiking for miles up and down a freeway, and after finding a third caravan park full, we gave up and decided to try an expensive looking hotel
Nicole wandered up to the desk and timidly asked, “Do you have a room”, nearly in tears
“No. We’re all full – it’s spring break you know. There aren’t any motels with vacancies anywhere in Key Largo!”
Our hearts sunk; it was almost midnight by this stage – what were we going to do?
We’d been up for 18 hours travelling, much of that time on our feet carrying heavy bags
The hotel receptionist saw our downcast faces and then, a glimmer of hope – “I could ring up in some nearby towns and find a place for you to stay and drive you there when I finish work in an hour”
An hour later this friendly girl, who happened to be from Puerto Rico, drove us 75 km and dropped us off at a motel
That was one of the best nights of sleep that two Australians in America have ever had, and all because of a girl from Puerto Rico, who treated us as her neighbours
That day, she was our good Samaritan
She had loved her neighbours
The story of the Good Samaritan is all about love
A lawyer had asked Jesus, “What must I do to go to heaven?”
And Jesus responded, asking: “Well, what do you think? How do you interpret God’s law in the Old Testament?
The lawyer thought about it, and came to the right conclusion: “The Law says to love God fully, and love your neighbour as yourself – but Jesus – who is my neighbour?”
And so, Jesus told those listening, the story of the Good Samaritan, answering both the asked questions: “Who is my neighbour?” and the unasked question, “How do I love my neighbour?”
So, what do you think love is?
What does love mean?
Well, what does the world tell us about love?
I thought I’d have a look and see what the internet could tell me about love
So I went to Google Images and typed “What is love?”
A lot of pictures came up – here are some of them
See those two bears on the swing – they’re are in love
That girl – she loves her dog
I found a poster of a movie that alleges to tell you all about, well, love, actually
Some guy obviously loves to fish
Maybe the internet isn’t the best place to find out about love
Well, what else talks about love?
Music – a lot of songs talk about love
What do different songs have to say about love?
Let’s have a break, and listen to what some songs say about love (Play songs)
“If I do not love, I am nothing!”
Those are pretty strong words
Out of interest, can anyone name the songs or singers? (Pause for answer)
“I just want to feel real love”
There’s a real desire for love in the world – we’re all looking for love
But it’s hard to say exactly what love is, isn’t it
It’s hard to define
When the lawyer asked Jesus who his neighbour was, it’s obvious that Jesus knew about love
Let’s take a closer look at the story Jesus told about love
In the story, a man set out from Jerusalem, to go to Jericho
Jericho is 30 km away from Jerusalem – it’s not far
But the path from Jericho to Jerusalem is down a winding, rocky, steep mountain
And in Jesus’ day, it was actually quite a dangerous road to travel on
Bands of thieves hid out in the hill caves and it was common for people to be robbed
And unfortunately this man wasn’t lucky – he was robbed and beaten on the road and left to die
The first two men to pass were both important religious men
You’d think an important religious person would stop and help someone in need – but neither stopped
Both crossed to the other side of the road and walked quickly on, perhaps pretending they didn’t see the man in need
Why didn’t they stop?
We’re they too busy? Did they have somewhere important to be?
We’re they worried that it would cost them some money to help this person?
We’re they scared that if they stopped, thieves might come and rob them as well?
Or did they just figure it wasn’t their problem?
It may have been any of these reasons, or perhaps none of them – in any case, neither stopped to help someone who desperately needed their help
We’ve all done something like that before – seen someone in need, but pretended not to see, so we don’t have to help…
The next man to pass wasn’t an important or well-liked person – he was a Samaritan
Now, Jesus was a Jewish person;
The Jews mostly lived in Galilee (up north on the map) and Judea (down south)
In between Galilee and Judea was a small country called Samaria
And the Jews back then hated the Samaritans, who were the people from Samaria
To understand the reason for this we have to go back in history
About 700 years earlier, Israel, which is that whole region on the map, was split into a northern half and a southern half
The northern half was invaded by a powerful country called Assyria
And the people of the northern half of Israel were exiled – sent away from their country – and they disappeared from history, never to be heard of again
New people came to live in the area, settling in Samaria
They adopted the Jewish religion, but the Jewish people felt that the Samaritans didn’t get it even close to right – firstly they weren’t Jews, and secondly, they didn’t really understand who God was!
The Jews considered them to be horrible and disgusting and hated them
Samaritans were considered to be the lowest of the low, and Jews wouldn’t talk to them or go near them
Vice-versa, Samaritans really disliked the Jews
It’s hard for us to understand – but it was really just down-right racism
So, in the story that Jesus told, the third person to pass, was a Samaritan
But the Samaritan, who had every reason not to help this man, stopped and patched up the man’s wounds
To the listeners of the story, this was pretty incredible
The Samaritan and the man on the ground were enemies – so why would the Samaritan stop?
Yet, the Samaritan did stop and help the man – even taking him to an inn and paying 2 silver coins to the inn-keeper to look after him
2 silver coins may not sound like much today, but back then it was a lot – that was two days wages - so that’s equivalent to maybe, a few hundred dollars
A complete stranger gives up a lot of his time and money to help an enemy
That, Jesus is telling us, is how we need to love
While Jesus was on earth he talked a lot about love
- You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies
While Jesus was on earth he always showed love
When Jesus saw the sadness of two sisters whose brother had died, he wept, and he brought the man back to life, because he loved them
As Jesus was dying on the cross, he asked God, his Father, to forgive the people that were killing him, because he loved them
In fact, his death on the cross was what showed his love the most
There is a passage in the Bible that perfectly captures this idea
- This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins
The Bible even tells us simply
- God is love
Last month’s sermon about the death of Jesus on the cross was all about his love for us
Jesus didn’t only show us love, though
He challenged us
The story of the Good Samaritan, isn’t just a good story
It’s a challenge
Today, Jesus calls us to love like he does
The parable says to us – love isn’t just a feeling
Yes, it is true that love comes from the heart
But, if it is real love, it will be so much more than just something inside us
If we have real love in us, then we will show love to those around us – everyone around us
We can’t withhold our love from a person just because we don’t like him; or just because he has different colour skin or a different religion; or just because he’s poor; or just because he’s or rich!
We have to love everyone, without exception
And this means, we should always be ready to help a person in need; to give our time, our energy, our possessions when the need arises
This sort of real love, may not always be easy
If you think about it carefully, you’ll realise there are times when this will be hard
If someone at school picks on you or teases you, you have to love her
If someone bullies you at work, you have to love him
Even a telemarketer who calls up and tries to get you to sign up to some great new deal – well, you have to love him too
We have to love those who disagree with us
We have to love those who cause problems for us
It doesn’t mean we have to always agree with everyone, or be a doormat – but, we still have to love everyone
God loves us – so how can we, who are made in his image, not love?
God loves us – and he will give us the strength to really love
These are some words of a famous hymn – Jesus said something like these words
- When I needed a neighbour were you there? Were you there?
- I was hungry and thirsty, were you there?
- When I needed a shelter, were you there?
- And the creed and the colour and the name won't matter! Were you there?