Formations Lesson for July 18: Love Kindness
Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham
July 06, 2010

Formations Lesson for July 18: Love Kindness

Formations Lesson for July 18: Love Kindness
Don Gordon, senior pastor, Yates Baptist Church, Durham
July 06, 2010

Focal Passage: Luke

This well-known story
of the Good Samaritan begins with an expert in the Law asking Jesus a question,
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds with a question about
the Scriptures: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” The expert
gives a good answer. He combines the Shema (Deut 6:5) and Lev. 19:17-18 as the
means to eternal life. Eternal life is found in loving God with everything
we’ve got and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus commends the expert for
his good answer and merely tells him to live according to this correct answer
and he “will live,” which presumably means “live forever.”

One gets the feeling
that Jesus assumed the conversation was over. This was an easy question and the
expert already knew the answer. Case closed. But the case wasn’t closed. The
lawyer wanted to “justify himself” with a follow up question: “Who is my
neighbor?” Implicit in the question is the assumption that there are those who
are not my neighbors.

Rather than giving the
lawyer a legal definition of neighbor Jesus told him a story. “A man was going
down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” Jerusalem is 2,300 feet above sea level and
Jericho is 1,300 feet below sea level (near the Dead Sea). The 17-mile trek was
notoriously rocky, filled with places where robbers could easily hide. As late
as the 19th century people still had to pay “safety money” to local sheiks to
insure their safe passage.

The disciples were delighted
to hear Jesus name religious leaders as those who failed to help the wounded
traveler. However, they were probably stunned when a Samaritan was put in a
positive light.

The Samaritans were a
remnant of Israel’s northern tribes that remained in the land when most
everyone was exiled to Assyria in 722 BC. Eventually they intermarried with the
Assyrians causing them to be viewed by the Jews as impure. Hostility and
violence climaxed in 109 BC when John Jyrcanus, then Judean king, destroyed the
Samaritan temple.

Jesus’ story about the
Good Samaritan taught that our neighbors go beyond family, race, and
nationality. Loving our neighbor must be practical, it is manifest in acts of
kindness. Notice the verbs used to describe what the Good Samaritan did: went,
bound, pour, set, brought, took care, gave money. Loving our neighbor means
being kind in practical ways to people we encounter who need our help.

Perhaps our lesson
could lead to a discussion on how to be kind to people in our neighborhoods.