Monday, April 11, 2016

Hey Nashville, Who Is Your Neighbor?

Jesus tells this story of a guy who gets beat up along the road to Jerusalem. Maybe you have heard the story. In case you haven't ever heard the story, here it is in a nutshell.  guy gets beat up and left for dead. Then, as Jesus tells it, 3 people pass along this road. Two of them claimed to be followers of God, leaders even, and they saw him and just kept walking. The third guy, a Samaritan, came along and helped the man. 

Maybe you know the point Jesus is trying to make. I have heard, and even taught, many lessons distinguishing those who think they are religious from those who actually practice loving their neighbor. 

But do you know what led to the guy getting beat up? What if the guy who got beat up made a poor choice that led to his downfall? Does that change how we see the situation? Do we at least understand how otherwise religious people might do nothing?

See, it started out with my van getting towed, while I was in a restaurant, in another city, in another state. Nashville, Tennessee, I'm looking at you. Actually, it started out with my not seeing the sign that said my van would get towed if I parked where I did. But if you're going to judge me for that, there's probably better blogs for you to read out there.

So my family is now without a vehicle in a place that is not home. We are clearly in need of help. The robbers...er, the company that towed my van, were clearly not going to be of any help. They don't care how I get to their place to pay a high fine and get my van back.  

Finding the place on my phone, we discover the place looks to be within walking distance. For all of you biting your nails, I will tell you now...it wasn't. But we started walking. In a strange city. With no signs of help.

We walked about a mile and a half before realizing some of the path was going to take us along highways. You know, the kind with lots of speeding cars. So we walked to a gas station where we saw a bus, with nobody on it. When I explained my situation to the driver, he explained that he could not transport non-government workers. If we're connecting stories here, he was the Levite who saw the beat up man and decided to cross to the other side of the road.

Then I looked up the bus company. When telling them where I was, they told me there was a bus stop right across the street. There was only a vacant lot. But because they were looking at a map, they must have been correct. Then there were the taxi cab companies that don't answer their phones. Yes, multiple companies.  

With time running out and options being few, I led my family along a part of the highway that no father would consider, had we not been desperate for solutions. We actually had a guy pass us by and yell at me to get my kids off the highway, as if that is the place I wanted to be with my kids. 

Keep in mind, the guy who got beat up in the story Jesus told didn't choose to get beat up. He needed a neighbor. Who is your neighbor?

I did make one obvious bad choice. Walking along a major highway. Again, you can judge me if you want, but you might be missing my point. We see people make bad choices all the time. Oftentimes we can even properly label it sin. But what caused the person to make that choice? I was walking along a major highway, because I felt like all my other reasonable options had been exhausted. 

As Christians, we can only yell at people to stop making bad choices for so long before we become part of a system that leaves them feeling stuck in their bad choices.  

So now I found my family in a grassy area, stuck near the on ramp of a major highway. I actually dialed 911, because who else was going to help me at this point. The officer gave me a non-emergency number to call, which, of course, didn't work.

So, who was my neighbor? It was Michael Hall, this singer in the band Levon the Music who happened along in his conversion van. I can only imagine how the beat up man in Jesus' story felt. I have wondered what he thought, knowing a Samaritan had paid for his expenses while he was unable to help himself. I don't imagine they ever ran into each other again. 

I may never run into the band Levon the Music again. I'm not much of a country fan, though I did look them up and found a trio with some pretty sweet harmonies. (You should check them out as well!) But he was a neighbor when I needed one most desperately. 

Is there someone out there you can help? You may not ever know what led them to were they are, but does that stop them from being your neighbor?

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