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Friday, May 15, 2009

Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)

Did you know that the first human question recorded in Scripture and the last human question recorded in Scripture are, in essence, the same question?

The first time that the Bible records a human question is in Genesis 4:9 where Cain, having killed his brother Abel in jealous anger after Abel presented to the Lord a more pleasing sacrifice than Cain’s, is asked by God, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The Bible also records, in Matthew 25:44, the very last question that men and women will ever ask in this life. When Christ comes in His glory to sit on His throne, He will banish the unredeemed to their eternal punishment, for not having ministered to His hunger, thirst and other needs. They will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” His reply, well known to all of us: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

These two questions, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and “Lord, when did we see you . . . and did not help you?” are really, in the bottom line, the same question. In fact, they are really the same question as the one – asked by a lawyer, no less – that prompted Jesus’ most famous parable, that of the Good Samaritan. “Who is my neighbor?” asked the lawyer. The response was the now-famous story of the man beaten by robbers and left to die, ignored by two religious and leaders, but saved by a despised member of an ethnic minority group.

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” Jesus asked. The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Three questions; one focus: Are we responsible for the well-being of the people around us? God’s unequivocal answer: “YES!”

In each of these cases sinful man attempts to rewrite the question to meet his own objectives. What lawyer-like efforts! He who defines the question controls the answer, right? Cain tried to suggest that he was not responsible for Abel’s problems; the expert in the law tried to define the “neighbor” that he was commanded to love in order to narrow his responsibility; those damned at the final judgment will try to claim that their unkindness to others should not count because it wasn’t directed at Christ personally.

Valiant efforts, but to no avail. God’s answers are clear. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. Who is my neighbor? You be a neighbor to everyone. Lord, when did we do wrong to you? When you did wrong to anyone.

Many Christian students enter law school with high idealism and a passion to serve others. They may envision themselves reconciling disputes between believers, or providing legal aid services for the inner city poor, or defending the religious freedom of some oppressed group. Somewhere along the line, that idealism is often lost. By the time Christians graduate from law school, their career paths may not look too different from those of their unsaved counterparts.

How about you? God gave you your legal skills and training for a reason. Is your career advancing the Kingdom? Is any part of your most precious resource – your time – given to His service? You may not be able to quit your job and volunteer at a legal aid clinic, but you can look for ways to use your abilities to minister to your neighbors.

~ Prof. Brad Jacob, Regent University School of Law, with thanks to Sam Ericsson, President, Advocates International

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