I saw Jesus at Wendy’s this week. There was a crowd gathered around as he was telling stories. Man, can he tell stories! Did you hear the one about the fish? A junior from Lee’s Summit North (in the National Honor Society) asked him a question: “How do I earn life forever?”
Jesus didn’t give a direct answer, but responded with his own question: “Are you familiar with the Old Testament? What's written in the books of Moses?”
The student quickly replied, “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and love my neighbor as myself.”
Jesus smiled and patted him on the back, “Very good! That’s truly living in the good kingdom of God!”
The student, though, felt awkward, and asked a question that silenced the crowd: “But who is my neighbor?” He wanted to prove himself worthy of the goodness of heaven in front of everyone, because he had done many good things. He was a smart student, and wanted to show off his smarts to Jesus, playing a word game with him. Honestly, the student just wanted Jesus to keep patting him on the back.
Jesus refused to play the game, and told a story instead.
There was a freshman from Lee’s Summit North walking home from school one afternoon. On the way home, a group of seniors beat him up, took all his money and identification, stripped him naked, and left him lying on the grass behind Wal-Mart—in plain sight of everyone.
A youth minister from Cornerstone Church was riding by on his bicycle, and saw the kid lying on the ground. At first he thought he was sleeping, then thought it might just be some kind of practical joke. He decided to play it safe and crossed by on the other side of the street. He makes a mental note to tell his kids to stay away from Wal-Mart.
A few minutes later, the worship leader from Cornerstone Church strolls by the kid lying down. He was strumming his guitar and singing at the top of his lungs, working on a new song he’d written called “Twinkle, Twinkle, Jesus Star”. When he actually saw the beaten up kid, he got scared and started running. He, too, made a mental note to tell his children to stay away from Wal-Mart.
Quite a while later, as the sun was setting, a drunk, homeless woman passed by. She saw the kid, and tears formed in her eyes. She got on her knees and wrapped the kid up in a blanket, tearing some t-shirts to use as bandages on his wounds. Mustering all of her strength and sanity, she lifted the kid into her shopping cart and pushed him all the way to the hospital, where she told the whole story to the doctors and nurses in the emergency room, who didn’t believe a word she said. The woman then stayed with the kid until he woke up, and called his parents when he regained consciousness.
Then Jesus looked at the crowd and asked the question, “Tell me, who was the neighbor to the kid that got beaten up?”
A little girl with blond curly hair and a frosty in her hand answered, “The lady that loved him.”
Jesus changed the question. He answers the question of “who” my neighbor is by telling everyone “what” a neighbor does.
A neighbor has compassion (which, literally means, “with suffering”).
A neighbor takes time to be with you.
A neighbor comforts.
A neighbor helps.
A neighbor loves.
Jesus then told everyone at Wendy’s, “Go and be neighbors to all people.”
Don’t worry about “who” your neighbor is.
Go be a neighbor.