Defining Neighbor - a version of Luke 10:25-37 for today's world.... a riff on "The Message" translation by Rev. Kate Epperly (from a sermon on July 10, 2016)
A legalistic religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”
Jesus answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”
The scholar said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”
“Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”
Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”
Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a heavily tattooed, paunchy , middle-aged skin-head ( we know this because he had a big swastika tattooed on his arm) riding on his motorcycle to Baton Rouge late one night only a couple of days after yet another unarmed black man was shot and killed by a policeman. As he would later admit, when the TV reporter was interviewing him, he had been going to Baton Rouge to look for some action. “He wanted to kick some butt,” he said.
On the way, however, he was forced off the road by a bunch of young thugs. They not only stole his motorcycle but his wallet, and leather jacket and all his clothes. They beat him up pretty good too. They went off leaving him lying by the side of the road half-dead. At dawn, luckily, a minister was on his way down the same road. When he saw this pudgy, bruised and bleeding heavily tattooed skinhead lying by the side of the road, him he not only passed him up but he pulled his Lexus all the way to the other side so that he almost hit an oncoming car!
A short time later a rabbi drove up but seeing the injured man, he simply sped up to get by him quickly. Perhaps that bloody bald head and all those tattoos somehow made him look frightening even though he was only half conscious. Maybe he just didn’t want to get involved - who knows.
The next to come by was a young black woman wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T Shirt and driving a Jeep. Without hesitation she pulled over and stopped. When she heard the man groaning and saw his condition, her heart went out to him. She gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. She almost had to drag the groggy yet grateful man to her car. After hearing that he didn’t want her to take him to a hospital because he didn’t have any health insurance, she took him to a nearby motel. There she made him comfortable and before she left, gave the front desk clerk her credit card number saying ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill.” She had to hurry on to Baton Rouge because, as a “Black Lives Matter” community organizer and she had a lot a long day of work ahead of her.
Jesus finished the story by saying, “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by hugs?”
“The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded sheepishly.
Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”