I had a chance to be a “neighbor” the other day, like the Good Samaritan in the book of Luke. Shortly after pulling onto Highway 36 on a quick trip to Chester, my husband and I came upon a couple trying to retrieve garbage from the middle of the road. It was strewn across the pavement and through the wooded area flanking the roadway for about a quarter mile. A huge mess, that occurred when they lost a garbage can on their way to the transfer station where refuge is deposited in shipping containers to haul to the county dump site.
Without hesitation my husband said, “We need to help them,” and pulled off the road. So, we jumped out of the car to chase papers caught by the wind.
If you are familiar with the Bible, you will recognize this term, “neighbor,” from the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). Although the lawyer asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?” as they discussed the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus drilled down on who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers. The man was badly injured, but a priest and Levite did not stop to help. Only the Samaritan had compassion on him.
The garbage disaster clearly fits the description of a neighbor—the one who shows mercy to the person in need. I am so grateful for those clear, good Samaritan appointments that provide the opportunity to show love and compassion. For truthfully, I sometimes struggle to know the good works God has prepared in advance which are described in Ephesians 2:10. Let me write it for you…
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ESV
Often these opportunities are not on our schedule, but something we come upon suddenly like the garbage in the road. We have a split second to decide whether to help or go on our way. For a quick decision we can use the criteria Jesus provided for the one who was a neighbor to the injured man on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Ask— “Does this situation require compassion?” This is an action-oriented word that is defined as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”1 To be merciful is to show compassion. I read that in the Old Testament God’s mercy is often described as lovingkindness.
To identify the good works God daily puts in my path I will look for distress. Is the phone call I receive as I attempt to prepare dinner just chit-chat or does the person need a word of encouragement? Do I need to change my schedule so I can go to court with a friend who is experiencing some legal troubles? Can I stretch my grocery budget to include food for a family financially struggling?
Jesus didn’t describe the details of the good works we are to do, but He did describe the type of person who completes them. It is the one who exhibits lovingkindness, like God, by being compassionate. With this attitude we will make the most of every opportunity to be a “neighbor.”
1-What opportunities have you missed to do a good work? Can you provide the details that prevented you from completing it?
2-How will you apply compassion to situations to determine if an opportunity for action is at hand? Do you have any additional suggestions for determining opportunities for a good work?
1-Merriam-Webster online dictionary, merriam-webster.com.
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