by Sarah Hanson

As we continue our journey through the “Outrageous Faith” series, we reach a pivotal moment in exploring what it means to live a Gospel-shaped life. Today, we delve into the profound implications of “Neighborly Engagement,” emphasizing grassroots change through personal and local community interactions. We focus on the immediate impact of our actions within our neighborhoods, workplaces, and social circles, urging us to integrate the lessons we’ve learned into tangible expressions of love and service.

Our guiding scripture for today is the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. This passage is familiar to many, but its depth and relevance challenge us to reconsider what it means to be a neighbor.

The question that Sparks a Story

The narrative begins with an expert in the law testing Jesus, asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, in his wisdom, responds with a question, leading the lawyer to cite the greatest commandments: “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” (Luke 10:27). Jesus affirms his answer but then the lawyer, seeking to justify himself, asks, “And who is my neighbor?”

This question sets the stage for Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story that is not just a narrative, but a powerful tool designed to challenge and transform our understanding of neighborly love.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Jesus narrates the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho who is attacked by robbers, stripped, beaten, and left half-dead. As he lies there, a priest and a Levite pass by, each choosing to avoid the injured man. Their actions—or lack thereof—are shocking, especially considering their religious roles and knowledge of the law that commands love and compassion.

Then comes the unexpected hero: a Samaritan. For Jesus’ Jewish audience, the Samaritans were despised and considered enemies. Yet, this Samaritan, in a surprising turn of events, sees the injured man, takes pity on him, and goes to great lengths to care for him.

Redefining Neighborly Love

Jesus’ question to the lawyer at the end of the parable—”Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”—reverses the original query. The lawyer responds, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus then instructs, “Go and do likewise.”

This parable redefines neighborly love. It is not about determining who qualifies as a neighbor but about embodying the qualities of a neighbor. It challenges us to move beyond our prejudices and extend compassion and mercy to everyone, especially those different from us or whom we might consider enemies.

Practical Steps to Embody Neighborly Engagement

  1. Be Authentic: Love your neighbor as yourself without pretense. You don’t need to be a “super Christian” to make a difference. God created you uniquely for a purpose, and your authentic self is exactly what He needs to fulfill His mission.
  2. Serve Without Expectation: Genuine service is about giving without expecting anything in return. Nelson Mandela said, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.” When we serve with ulterior motives, it ceases to be service and becomes manipulation.
  3. Small Acts Matter: Sometimes, loving your neighbor is about small, everyday opportunities. Compliments, smiles, holding doors open—these seemingly insignificant acts can transform someone’s day. Small gestures build up to create significant positive impacts.
  4. Respect and Dignity: It’s entirely possible to love and serve others while respecting their humanity, even if we don’t share the same beliefs or lifestyles. Treat everyone with dignity, recognizing their intrinsic worth as fellow human beings.

A Personal Reflection

Allow me to share a personal story to illustrate the power of neighborly engagement. One day, I had a neighbor scold me for planting native plants in my yard, complaining that it was unruly. Initially, I felt defensive and angry, confirming my belief that people can be selfish and unreasonable. Yet, another neighbor offered to mow my lawn when I was away for weeks. This simple act of kindness made me feel seen and cared for, reflecting true love for one’s neighbor.

These contrasting experiences highlighted the impact of our actions. Negative encounters can confirm our worst suspicions about humanity. In contrast, positive interactions can restore our faith in the goodness of others. As followers of Christ, we are called to be the latter and the Good Samaritans in our world.

Living the Call

As we conclude this part of our series, let’s commit to embodying the radical love and compassion that Jesus teaches through the parable of the Good Samaritan. Let’s engage with our neighbors in ways that reflect God’s heart, fostering genuine relationships and promoting kingdom values in our daily lives.