Departure Toward Our Neighbor, Part 2
Knock - Listen - Offer
by Bruni Wolters, Vineyard Church, Hamburg/Germany

Let's do a little exercise today. Let's all close our eyes und think of who is sitting in the row behind us. Whoever is sitting in the last row, may think of who is working on the technics today. Can you see these people in your mind? Now concentrate on one of them. Is he or she happy? Are they feeling well or do they look sad and aggrieved? Have you noticed?

Thank you for taking part in this little exercise!

Well, today we will be talking about the practical side of the parable of the good Samaritan. Last time, we heard about Jesus having created all necessary conditions for us to encounter people in need. He has saved us, He has healed us, He has equipped us and He has assigned us. I am going to read the same passage again, but this time leaving out the conversation between Jesus and the teacher in the law, as I have talked about it already.

Luke 10,30-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?":

"What is written in the law? How do you read it?"

He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your hearts and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,' and 'Love yoyur neigbors as yoursel' ."

"You have answered correctly", Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live!"

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine, Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,`he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to them man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Jesus antwortete: "Ja. Nun geh und mach es genauso."

The need is very obvious here. We don't have to discuss for long asking whether this man is in need of help. The circumstance is very clear. It would also be very clear if we happen to witness a car accident with many injured. Then we don't have to think twice. We are compelled to provide assistence. Not doing this will even be fined in this country (Germany).

At first sight, you won't realize a person waiting for the good Samaritan nowadays. Many people "laying on the ground" don't look like needing help. And those simply passing by, aren't those refusing to provide assistence or not wanting to, either. There might be those, too, of course, but I am very sure that it is not a majority.

Those that pass by are often those that don't even realize they are being needed. Do I realize when I am needed? Am I able to look closely, to listen? Have I ever realized it? We have made an exercise of perception. Don't worry, I won't be asking you whether you were able to tell who is sitting behind you and how they are feeling. Do appraise this exercise for yourself. I hope that everybody has learned something about themselves. And maybe one or the other will have noticed that their perception is developable.

There is one key sentence in this parable: "... and when he saw him, he took pity on him.".

The Samaritan was touched by the need of the man. He looked closely, he saw the need and the need did not leave him cold, but touched his heart. And his inner consternation drove him to action.

Jesus changes the perspective of the teacher in the law who emanates from himself as he asks: "Who is my neighbor? Who do I have to help?" Jesus tries to make him walk in the victim's shoes for a moment, emanate from the victim, and ask, "Who will help me? Who will be my neighbor?"

We will have to act the same way if we ponder the very practical question: "How can I implement what Jesus requires?" For starters, we should stop reflecting ourselves:

Do I have enough love?
Am I merciful enough?
Am I competent?
Do I have enough time?

Concentrating on this kind of questions we will easily conclude:

I am not able to do this.
I feel so helpless.
I don't know what to say.
I don't know how to do it. I can't do this.

Jesus wants to change our perspective. Away from ourselves - toward the other person. We are taking an extra tuition with Jesus. He was the perfect good Samaritan. We copy what He did. The gospels tell from numerous encounters Jesus had with the sick or needy. I'd like to describe His way to deal with people as: knock, listen, offer.

1. Knock
Jesus says: "I stand before the door and knock. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter the house."

Jesus does not go like a bull at the gate. Jesus does not kick the door in. Jesus knocks and waits for our reaktion.

I'd like to give you an example of how it should not be. What is it like if we kick someone's door in? I see Gerd in the church service and think: "He doesn't look at all well today." So I walk up to him saying, "Gerd, you're looking real bad today. I know perfectly well what's up with you and what you need right now. I'm gonna pray for you now and you'll be feeling a lot better."

I ran downright over him and Gerd had no possibility at all to react! How would he feel now? After kicking his door in, he'd feel like laying under the door, won't he, and I am still bouncing on it asking, "Well, aren't you feeling better now?"

Jesus knocks. How does He do it? By asking: "What's up with you? How can I help you? What can I do for you?" He even does this with a blind man, where actually there was no question of what was up with him. Jesus knocks; Jesus asks.

What could I have done better in my example with Gerd?

I could have asked: "Gerd, how are you?"
He might answer: "So so."
Then I will know that he does not want to talk; or maybe he does not want to talk with me about things.

I have knocked and he did not open the door. That is alright and I leave him alone. He has this freedom and I will not take it off of him.

But he could also answer: "Really, I am not at all well today."
Then I'd ask: "Would you like to talk?"
If he starts talking, then we approached number two: listen.

2. Listen
Also here, I'd like to begin with a negative example. Some time ago, I went shopping and met a friend. We chatted for maybe 15 minutes. During this time, she talked unceasingly. Inbetween she asked, "Well and how are you?" I could hardly answer. Soon, she found a key word where she could interrupt and hook into and went on talking.

She was so filled up with her own things that it was bubbling out of her. There was no space for me at all. When we said goodbye and I drove home, I felt real sad. I felt empty and used.

Lately, I consciously paid attention to how many conversations proceed a similar way and I realized that many people don't listen well. They are so occupied with themselves, with their own ideas and thoughts and problems and experiences. There is simply no space for others.

On the other hand, this is a criteria of our times that people are less and less able to relate. They are living isolated, they feel lonesome, are unable to build and maintain sustainable friendships. They often feel misunderstood and ignored. And their isolation is like a big riddle to them.

There is one ability that is most important in the building of familiar relationships, and this is listening. Asking good questions, be understanding, no interruption, be responsive to hints - all of these are important communication tools, bringing across to the person you speak to that he/she is important. Whoever talks unceasingly shows his counterpart that there is but one important person, and that is himself.

Jesus was a great teacher, but at the same time, He spent a lot of time listening to people. And He listened to people that nobody else wanted to deal with. He asked incredibly good questions. He let people talk. And He did not begin with His teachings before realizing what was really bothering them.

3. Offer
Suppose it really has come to a conversation. Someone has disburdened his/her heart. All their misery lies spread out before us. What next? We sense a little bit of their pain and it starts hurting in us also. What are we to do now?

At this point, a big mistake often occurs. We do everything for this other person to feel well as soon as possible again. We want to improve the situation, the sooner the better. This is very understandable and very human and often very inefficient.

We are looking for the "right" words. We besiege the other person with well-meant advice that all have one thing in common: they are fairly superficial. We design a plan and want to drive the other person to action.

Let us dive into the parable. A fast solution is a little bit like a Samaritan who looks at the bleeding man saying, "How disgusting, this is terrible, I can't even look at it. Here, take some band-aids and vitamin pills." And then he quickly moves on.

It really is kind of unmasking. We are giving advice and are searching for quick solutions because we cannot cope with watching a suffering person. But what did this Samaritan do? He provided for the wounds and then he put the man up on his donkey and took him to an inn. He himself went walking. This took time - maybe even hours. The man on the donkey must have sufffered pain, I guess he was moaning and groaning. The Samaritan coped with all that. He stayed with him. True love, true charity shows when we see the pain without running away.

Our kind of comforting band-aids often has a dangerous side effect. It diverts from what God wants to do in the life of that person. God's great desire for us is to know Him better and better, to trust Him more and more, to enjoy His presence and obey to His word. How does He care for us to learn this? He guides us into situations where we have to decide to either completely trust Him or to grasp at straws.

Somebody is in need, already for quite some time. And it looks like God would not intervene. Nothing is changing. Then we get worn down, think that God has forgotten about us and decide to care for ourselves instead of waiting. We are looking for other comforters, go shopping, working, eating or drinking, play, watch tv, you name it. Everyone has his/her own methods.

We know exactly that those things don't really help, yet we are drinking "poisoness water" anyway, instead of waiting for God in order to drink from His healthy and living waters.

It is difficult for us to wait for God's action. It is difficult for us to cope with difficult situations. A person who is ready to wait with us, to cope with us and to keep us from drinking "poisoness water", is a real blessing and a big support.

Such a person not only needs the ability to knock and listen, he/she also needs the ability to listen to God in order to offer whatever is needed.

Offer. Offer what? Well, offer help for that other person to grow in his/her relationship with God. Help identify those little comforting band-aids and keep them from using them. Encouraging them to trust solely in God. Encouraging them to seek His presence. Explaining them that true help and true comfort can only be obtained with God. Encouraging them to give up what is between them and God.

And there is another ability that I see in this Samaritan; he is able to define himself. He takes this injured man to this inn and moves along the next day. He does not stay until the man is recovered. He arranges for help and then he goes his way.

We are allowed to take our own limitations into consideration. We even have to do it, if we want to remain healthy while helping others. When realizing that our strength has reached its limits, then we must delegate. Not every Christian who wants to practice charity has to be a MD or graduate as couselor from a Bible School or be at disposal until exhaustion. But we all know of good doctors and counselors and this is where we can send those people to. Or if someone is in financial need for example, then I might know of a good financial consultant where I could send him to. Offering help and maybe send him/her to an expert - this is a protection against excessive demands.

I can't possibly be a neighbor to everybody. No way. I can only be a neighbor to one person at a time. Say, there is a bad car accident with several injured. Then I can only be with one of them at a time providing first aid assistence. One needy person at a time, also this protects me against excessive demands. I may trust in God for sending someone my way for help. The only thing I have to do is to realize His help and react accordingly.

Actually it is very easy to be a neighbor! Knock - listen - offer!
How are you? What do you need? How can I help?

What do we need most to put these things into practice?

Selfcontrol. Knock instead of kicking the door in. Listen instead of talking yourself. And offer yourself instead of striking advice. Selfcontrol is a fruit of the Spirit, e.g. the Holy Spirit is really very active. Let's give Him consciously the space to change us. Taking a look at the one who is in need of help changes our way of thinking, of sensing and of perception. Thus we will become more and more a neighbor who is not constantly helpless and strained.


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