Who is My Neighbor?

charlottesvilleWho is My Neighbor?” Preached at Storehouse at Canton, August 27, 2017. By Dr. Terry Threadwell.

” But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. “So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. “On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luk 10:27-37 NKJ)

Edomites, and remember the ruin of Jerusalem, That day they yelled out, “Wreck it, smash it to bits!” And you, Babylonians—ravagers! A reward to whoever gets back at you for all you’ve done to us; Yes, a reward to the one who grabs your babies and smashes their heads on the rocks! Psalm 137:7-9

The Lawyer asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ When we think of our neighbor we traditionally think of the person or persons that live next door. But the Greek word plesion found in Luke goes much further.

a neighbor, a friend, any other person, and where two are concerned, the other (thy fellow man. According to the Jews, any member of the Hebrew race and Commonwealth. According to Christ, any other human being irrespective of race, culture, lifestyle or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet. (Bibleworks)

Last week, a young man who was working on our driveway said: “Slavery has been over years now, I don’t know what all the fuss is about?” Isn’t that a common attitude?  When something doesn’t apply to us personally, we assume that it doesn’t apply at all.

“Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. “Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

What assumptions did the priest and the Levite make about the wounded man? Though Jewish law forbid the priest from touching a dead body lest they become unclean, showing compassion would have been the overriding factor, especially to a fellow Israelite (Lev 19:18)

He was a loser, a drunk, already dead, or a trap!

Jesus doesn’t ask us to make assumptions, or to stereotype; he asks us to be a good neighbor and care. That Care could be physical, emotional or even psychological

The recent events at Charlottesville bring up the past, cause problems for the present and ask questions about the future.

To the average person here this morning, what are the questions we need to be asking?

To the Jew, the symbols of Nazism seen on the streets stir up memories of  the past. They may have had grandparents, aunts, and uncles that shared with them the horrors of Nazi Germany and the death camps. A regime that was so evil, not only did it kill up to 6 million Jews, it also killed:

  • Soviet civilians: around 5.7 million
  • Soviet prisoners of war: around 3 million
  • Non-Jewish Polish civilians: around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)
  • Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina): 312,000
  • People with disabilities living in institutions: up to 250,000
  • Gypsies: 196,000–220,000
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses: around 1,900
  • Repeat criminal offenders and so-called anti-socials: at least 70,000
  • German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory and Germany, many of whom were Christian: Undetermined

So what was happening in Germany to allow this evil to rise?

The attitudes and actions of German Catholics and Protestants during the Nazi era were shaped not only by their religious beliefs but by other factors including:

  • The backlash against the Weimar Republic and the political, economic, and social changes in Germany that occurred during the 1920s. Germany was seen as weak and ineffectual.
  • Anti-socialist
  • Nationalism—a termination to make Germany great again.
  • Resentment toward the international community in the wake of World War I, which Germany lost and for which it was forced to pay heavy reparations.

These were some of the reasons why most Christians in Germany welcomed the rise of Nazism in 1933. They were also persuaded by the statement on “positive Christianity” in Article 24 of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform, which read:

“We demand the freedom of all religious confessions in the state, insofar as they do not jeopardize the state’s existence or conflict with the manners and moral sentiments of the Germanic race. The Party as such upholds the point of view of a positive Christianity without tying itself confessionally to any one confession. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit at home and abroad and is convinced that a permanent recovery of our people can only be achieved from within on the basis of the common good before individual good.”

Despite the fact that the statement was anti-semitic and its linkage between confessional “freedom” and a nationalistic, racialized understanding of morality, many Christians in Germany at the time read this as an affirmation of Christian values. (https://www.ushmm.org/collections/ask-a-research-question/how-to-cite-museum-materials)

Some Christians were against this movement and formed the confessional church, that would pledge allegiance to nobody but Jesus Christ. Christians like Martin Niemöller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, both pastors who spent several years in the camps, with Bonhoeffer eventually being executed.

Niemöller wrote:

First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Or perhaps if I was African American and I saw the men in white robes at Charlottesville I would have remembered the Klan lynching’s, images of police brutality and violence.

The truth is that when we come across somebody that is or has been wounded by the violence of today’s society, we are not to justify our actions and pass by on the other side. Instead, we should take the time to stop and start the healing process. It shouldn’t matter if the wounded person is black, Muslim, Gay, alcoholic, drug addict, or war veteran.  If we love God, then these are our neighbors, stop and start the healing process today.

About Terry Threadwell

Dr. Terry Threadwell has thirty five years ministry experience. Author, educator and Director of the Institute of Progressive Pentecostal Studies.
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