The Art of Neighboring

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘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.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Have you ever been in that spot. You didn’t really want to know what was right, you just wanted to justify yourself.

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

(That would be like a pastor.)

32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

Levites also worked in the church, often times leading worship. So it would be like Jonathan

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10

For literally thousands of years a Samaritan has been used to represent one thing. That person who you would most likely not want to reach out to. That one person who would be considered to be your worst enemy.

A terrorist. That would be a person most likely to be our mortal enemy.
You’re terrible boss
Drug dealer
You’re ex.
Time share salesman
You knew I had to go here
Raider fan
The guy driving in front of you who’s texting

I believe there is one people group that is consistently left out. One people group that we avoid. Our neighbors. The people who live next door. Our actual neighbors.

The reason Jesus didn’t mention our actual neighbors in this story is because to him and his audience, it was obvious. Of course we should take care of our neighbors.

If Jesus was telling this story to American Christians, I think it would have sounded very different.

On one occasion an televangelist stood up to test Jesus and asked what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 But the televangelist, trying to justify himself asked, “And who is my neighbor?” And Jesus responded by pulling out his smart phone and bringing up google maps and said, “Dude, it’s this guy. The guy that lives next door to you. Start there.”

I know it sounds like I’m making a big deal about this, but Jesus said it himself.

In Matthew 22 Jesus was asked a question
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Jesus said these are the two most important concepts in the world. Do these and you’re good. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love them as much as you love you.

There is only one problem I see here. Most of us don’t even know who our neighbors are.

The parable of the good samaritan is not just a story. It’s a mission. It’s actually at the heart of our mission statement. Our mission at Canyon Springs is four words. It’s about the one.

Canyon Springs is developing a reputation as a church that will literally go to the ends of the earth for our neighbors. Maybe it’s time to shorten our trip. Make the trip across the street. Over the lawn. Make the trip a couple of doors down.

About 10% of people can fill out all the names of their neighbors. 10%.
3% can tell you something significant about the people around them and only 1% can tell you something meaningful for every square.

Love your neighbor? We don’t even know our neighbors.

Now I can help you out there. I went to your neighborhoods this last week and studied your neighbors and learned their names. Are you ready. There is Beemer guy. He lives in your neighborhood. He’s married to yoga pants. They have a couple of kids. Nerd boy with the glasses and his sister screams a lot. This is how we know our neighbors, isn’t it. That’s about it. There’s walks his dog. I’m pretty sure walks his dog is also dog goes on my lawn but I’ve never caught him. Obama sticker lives on your street. Guy who doesn’t mow his lawn lives near you. He’s right next door to guy who doesn’t put his trash cans away after trash day. In my neighborhood, that’s me by the way. This is how we remember people.

For some of you if the family across the street didn’t have those stick figure stickers on the back window of their mini van you wouldn’t know how many people live there.

Look with me at Exodus 33. Moses is wandering through the desert leading the people of Israel and he’s feeling alone. He’s going through a spiritual drought like the one we talked about last week. Notice God’s encouragement to Moses.

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:14-17

Here’s how you will know that I will come through for you Moses. Here’s how you know I will love you and lead you. I know you by name. Over and over in the bible God tells us the same thing.

This is what the Lord says—  he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

Jesus said it like this.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3

Names are important to God. Very important. Have you ever been reading through the bible and have gotten to a long list of names. Let me give you just a couple. Dodo is a bible name. There are actually three guys named Dodo in the bible. Chalcol. Basemath is a name in the bible. A woman’s name. Three women are named Basemath, two of which were married to Esau. I think they were accountants. Aram, a guy who named his kids Uz, Hul, Gether and Mash. The all time best name in a genealogy is right here. You ready. His name is Maher-shalal-hash-baz Why does God mention these people. Because names are important to Him. People are important to him.

Not only does God know your name, he knows everything about you.

Matthew 10:30- He knows the number of hairs on your head
For some of you that’s easier to count than others, but he knows how many.

Psalm 139- He knows you’re every thought

Psalm 55- He knows your every care and wants to carry them for you.

Let me tell you about a conversation that I’ve had over and over and over with people who are going through dark times. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this said. “It’s been rough, but I know there are people who have it worse than me.
Can you imagine if your homes worked like we think God works. Your kid comes home from school and he’s been bullied by a couple of his friends. Nothing too serious, he just wore the wrong shirt to school so now some kids are calling him Dora the Explorer. And they sang to him at lunch. It’s probably you’re fault for buying him a Dora shirt, but let’s not point fingers. Imagine if your child came home and said, “The kids made fun of my Dora shirt today. They followed me around singing, ‘You can lead the way.’” After your child poured out his little heart, can you imagine saying to him. “Well, be grateful. At least you’re not starving in Africa. At least you are not persecuted for your faith. Did you know, little Johnny, that Isis is hunting down Christians and burning them at the stake. Be grateful you’re not them.” There isn’t a parent here who would do that. You might bring up starving children in Africa when they complain about their macaroni and cheese, but you’re not that heartless.

But this is how heartless we’ve portrayed God.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you struggle with. You may have big time, serious, outrageous issues or you may have minor, menial struggles. I was talking to a friend this last week and he was complaining that the transmission in his classic corvette was running rough. Believe it or not, God cares about that problem too.

God cares about your name. He wants us to care about our neighbors names.

That’s all I want you to do this week. Learn a name. Value your neighbor by learning a name. If you know all the names in the five houses around you go for a walk and learn some more names. Let’s see what God does in our lives and the people around us.