Who is my Neighbor? | Wk 1

Years ago PBS featured a new show where the host entered the studio, took off his cardigan sweater, and his dress shoes and put on some sneakers – while singing the theme song…
 
(Sing) 😉 “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood A beautiful day for a neighbor Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood aired from 1968 through 2001, through out many of our childhoods – but in 1976 it almost ended. In 1976 Fred Rogers hit a wall…he ran out of ideas. He was tired, and looking for a change… so he launched a show for adults – Old Friends, New Friends. He thought he’d done it all…what else is there to teach kids?
 
Then two things happened. His adult-oriented show struggled; parents didn’t relate to him like their kids had. But more importantly, tragedy struck: Fred Rogers learned about a 4-year-old child who had died jumping off a building, pretending to be Superman. He wondered: Could his show have helped prevent the death?
So he got back to work, re-launched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and told the nation’s kids about the make-believe world of superheroes.
 
Mr. Rogers died in 2003, He would have been 90 years old today. And did you know this year the documentary about his life called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was released…and 1 year from this week the feature film staring Tom Hanks is scheduled to hit theaters.
 
Clearly a major part of many of our lives already…but looking at Mister Rogers we can learn about being a “good neighbor… “ His life, his goals, his actions were all about being a “good neighbor”… in fact…
1. Mr. Rogers was driven “to be a good neighbor” BY HIS FAITH. Fred Rogers graduated Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and he was heading towards becoming a pastor until television caught his eye. You see his beliefs about Christianity were simple. “Love your neighbor as yourself”. He wanted people everywhere to know that they were special and loved.
 
2. Mr. Rogers really hated television… Before launching his TV show, Fred Rogers sat and watched shows with people tossing pies at each other one TV program and thought to himself: Why not use this medium for good? After years of watching…Fred became convinced television could change a child’s life for the better. His idea was “way out there” for the Presbyterian Church and for TV too. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood broke all the rules for successful TV. It had low production value, a single set, and an unlikely, soft-spoken star. But even still children loved it. And he hoped TV producers would join him and follow suite…he hoped they would have the “respect of childhood I have.”
 
3. Mr. Rogers was the same person in private as in public. If you asked his kids – John and Jim Rogers, they’d tell you their dad was just as patient at home as he was on TV. The TV production crew agreed – he wasn’t an actor – he was the real deal. As one friend says, “Was he that way in real life? … The universal answer is ‘yes.’”
 
Now there are so many great things Mr. Rogers taught us – but above all of them was how to be a good neighbor…
And for us – just like Mr. Rogers – our faith should drive us, we should desire to relate to our culture and we MUST be REAL, Genuine People to our neighbors.
 
These principles were not created by Fred Rogers…even though they were put into practice incredibly well by him. These principles of living by faith, connecting with our community and being authentic were straight from Jesus.
And we get a great example right from his mouth when Jesus tells the story we call “The Good Samaritan.”
 
And it starts with Jesus stopping. Even before we get to the story that many of us already know about a helpful bystander – I want to draw your attention to Jesus. He was in the middle of his day – any number of things on his to do list – but He stops to discuss a question…a question from a man that didn’t even really want to know the answer…
 
Luke 10:25-29
25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
 
This question of neighborhood was a greatly debated topic in that day. All the Jews knew of the command in “the law”. They knew that the Israelites were supposed to “love your neighbor as yourself” and so this man was looking for a loop hole – he wanted to know who his neighbor was – that way he’d know who he had to love and who he didn’t. Not the best motive…but still Jesus entertains the question.
So Jesus tells him a story…but listen as Shane retells this story in a way that might connect a little better with us today…
 
There was once a man from Lebanon who went up to Columbus to stay the weekend in one of its fine hotels. While he was there, he wanted to visit the Science Center and eat at great restaurants. One night he decided to take a walk through the city and came upon a gang lurking in an alley who beat him up, took all his money and left his crumpled body to bleed on the sidewalk.
 
Well, along came a Preacher who was on his way to a religious conference. This preacher saw the man lying there… but he was in a hurry, and besides that he might get the man’s blood on best Sunday suit. He didn’t have his cell phone with him, but he decided that once he reached the church building he’d call 911 and have someone sent to help the man. So he walked away.
Then a Sunday School teacher passes by. She knew this part of town was dangerous, and so when she saw the bleeding & beaten man on the sidewalk, she was afraid whoever beat him up might still be there… so she walked quickly away.
Then along comes a man who’s NOT a church goer. In fact he owned a local bar; and he was a professed atheist.
 
But he saw this man lying helpless on the sidewalk and was overcome with pity. He got his car and gently placed the man in the back seat. He wasn’t worried about the blood staining his own clothes or the back seat, he just wanted to get this victim to the ER as quickly as possible. Discovering that the man had no insurance, he even paid the hospital bills himself and left his phone number so the ER staff could contact him if there’s anything else he could do.
 
So the question is, which of these 3 was actually “neighborly”? Which of the characters in this illustration acted like “a neighbor” to the man who was beaten? Clearly we could say…the bar owner. It seems kind of easy to answer…
And I think for most of us we’d say – we all go through our lives day after day and we don’t see people beaten up and bloodied… because certainly if we did we’d stop for sure. That’s just not a relatable story…it doesn’t connect with me…
So, what if we said it this way…the man was punched repeatedly in the stomach and the back…he suffered from severe, life threatening internal injuries. So you then have to make a judgement call…is this guy hurting? Is the person that I came across actually in pain? Do they need my help? Should I stop? Is this my neighbor?
 
That’s what Jesus taught – that “our neighbor” was anyone in need.
I. Do we think of ALL people as “my neighbor”?
Regardless of your relationship or lack there of… regardless of your living proximity…regardless of your commonalities – neighbors are not ONLY the people whose houses are next door. They’re not just the people we borrow a cup of sugar from. Our neighbors are NOT ONLY the people we KNOW – according to this illustration Jesus says our neighbors are all around us…all the time.
 
– The priest didn’t know the man and didn’t help… – The assistant didn’t know the man and didn’t help… – even the Samaritan – he also didn’t know the man…BUT he HELPED.
 
Regardless of our acquaintance…we are still neighbors!
Look at this passage again…
Luke 10:33 33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.
This Samaritan was described as being “despised”… he was an outcast – he was unaccepted…unloved. This man knew what it was like to NEED help. And so because of his past “he felt compassion” – he knew what love was needed and he helped.
So let’s put some specifics on this. For us to get a better understanding of who is our neighbor…it might help to define “our neighbor” the way that God does. Back in Leviticus 19, God describes your neighbor as being…
 
Leviticus 19:34 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
 
Your neighbor is “a foreigner residing among you.” Like you once were…the same way you felt unloved…they feel unloved. You need to treat ALL people like one of your own.
Shane – We don’t have to know them…but we have to treat people like we do. Because we’ve been there…we’ve been separated and we’ve been included. When we were injured we were invited into God’s family. So we need to love our neighbors. All of them everywhere…
 
One of the things that is so beautiful about Branches is the constant desire here to reach out to those in need. 1. Thanksgiving boxes 2. The nest 3. Tiger Closet 4. Recently a car for a family 5. Christmas presents
 
So the first reason people don’t love their neighbor – they don’t know them. But that’s no excuse…our response must be out of a heart of compassion. And Mr. Rogers did that…he loved people with a God given heart to see them cared for. Regardless of their past, their social status, their political affiliations…we have to genuinely love all people…
 
II. Do we fear being abused?
Too often we don’t stop and help because we’re afraid we’ll be taken advantage of. Many times we don’t give to the poor because we think that the person we help will just waste the money, or that our gift will free that poor person to buy alcohol, cigarettes or drugs…I see this…I have similar apprehensions. But God is calling us to stop and care…
 
At our church we rarely give money to the poor. If they need groceries we may give them a voucher to a local supermarket. If they need gas we’ll take them down to the gas station and fill up their tank. If they need their utilities paid, we give the money directly to the utility company.
 
And similarly the Samaritan didn’t give any money to the man he helped. He gave it to the innkeeper, and told him that if there were any other expenses he would pay the innkeeper the difference.
 
*Disclaimer – When we try to help the poor, we don’t have to give them cash BUT we are called to love them.
God looks at this command to love our neighbor as ourselves as extremely important – James even called it the “royal law”.
 
James 2:8 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Sometimes it’s a service and sometimes it is through money…God takes this so seriously – that when we do it He reward us. That’s why Proverbs says…
 
Proverbs 19:17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and he will repay you! …it’s not a gift to the person it’s a lone directly to God.
 
We come up with so many reasons NOT to help…or give…sometimes we don’t help because… 1. we don’t see people as our neighbors. 2. because we’re afraid of getting hurt/ taken advantage of. 3. we don’t trust God with what “little” we actually have.
 
But honestly – I think the most accurate reason we don’t love our neighbors like God commands and like Mr. Rogers demonstrated is because…we’re selfish.
 
III. Do we think of others first?
Jesus DIDN’T say Love yourself so that you can love others! He said: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love them in the same way that you love yourself. And of course that means the Bible assumes you love yourself.
It’s kind of like how husbands are told in…
Ephesians 5:28-29 …husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.
Most people love themselves…it’s observable…
 
Let’s say you find a family photo in a desk drawer. It’s a big group picture of you with all your uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters… now whose face is the first one you look for? Yours! You love yourself.
 
Now, you may not be really happy with yourself at the moment. You may be disappointed with something you’ve done, or said… or by something you’ve NOT done or said. But either way I think the vast majority of people could be described as – loving yourself.
 
And it’s not bad too love who you are…we are created in the image of God and that’s a great thing. BUT we must realize that everyone else was too. And we MUST love them MORE than ourselves.
 
Love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus said. Because I have first loved you…
 
1 John 4:19 19 We love each other because he loved us first.
 
The Samaritan was filled with compassion because he understood compassion. He helped a broken man because Jesus had helped him…a broken man.
 
And you know…not long after Jesus told this story He became a broken man. Just days after discussing a hypothetical Jew that was beaten within inches of his life…Jesus became that man…left to die on a cross.
 
And He did this willingly. He suffered and died on the cross for us. He did this because He refused to walk on by us. He refused to let us die by the side of the road. He had compassion upon us. And now He holds out His nail scarred hand to bring you the healing your soul so desperately needs.
 
Luke 7:47 he who has been forgiven little loves little
 
The religious ones that were passing by the beaten man in need didn’t feel like they needed forgiveness and therefore felt no love. …Just like last weeks testimony…. the fire that Franco has for helping others – is because he knows he has been forgiven MUCH. So he loves MUCH. and that love drives him to action. Maybe you are thinking…WHAT DOES that REALLY look like?
Just within our Community – We can see people compelled to be good neighbors…these are just a few that came to mind this week;
 
• Michael and Melinda Compelled to serve the addicted in recovery because of what that have seen in their extended family… • Todd and Tammy Williams compelled to help others in FPU because they know how God has redeemed their financial situation… • Jazmin and Chris compelled to serve our children because they want them to know the love of Jesus… • Student leaders serving our students on Wednesdays because of what God did for them as a teenager… • Franco and Morgan compelled to go into the prisons because Franco knows what that feels like… • Barb Ball is compelled to lead our children in musicals because she has witnessed the powerful way this has impacted her own children that now serve in ministries around the country… • Julie and Randy compelled to help marriages because they were inspired after seeing how God has blessed their union… • Julie serving safe families because of her heart for the hurting families in crisis… • Christian and Nicole want to help bring awareness to the couples struggling with infertility because they have been there and experienced a miracle… • Ray and Tina Wene who today are walking in honor of Ray’s Brain cancer awareness, because they wants other to know and experience how powerful the work and support for their experience has been…. • JR and Ruthie greet at the front doors because they know how it was life changing for them to be greeted and welcomed to our community just in the last few years… • Mike Redslob and Jeff Rasulis compelled to teach our foundations class because they know how this has impacted their lives… • Kate, Sara, Gina leading ladies bible studies because they know how powerful it is for women to connect in their faith journey… • Ted Hospodar leading our men’s group because he has experienced the powerful way men have invested in his life…
 
How much have you been forgiven…How grateful are you for what Christ has done? Does it compel you to be a better Neighbor?
 
Communion – served to each other as neighbors… set up in corner stations in the room.

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