Who is your neighbor? (Jan. 15, 2004)

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Who is your neighbor?

Jan. 15, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht* 
mwacht@flumc.org, Orlando  {0006}   

An e-Review Commentary
By Rev. Kendall M. Taylor**
Staying focused on the nuts and bolts of congregational transformation requires revisiting the vision that drives it. This is where the energy and passion come from to lead the effort in a conference or a local church. 
An early invitation to transformation was made to a very religious legal Expert. From the encounter between Jesus and the Expert comes the almost universally known parable The Good Samaritan (Luke10). The parable itself is a magnificent insight into the heart of God and what attitudes and behaviors God expects from us, but the thing that captures my attention and interest in the encounter is the difference in frame of reference between the Expert and Jesus.

Hear the way the Expert framed his question to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" When the question is asked that way, who is at the center of concern? Certainly it was the Expert, himself. He was trying to discover limits within which he was required to obey the Law. Conversely, I suspect he wanted permission not to be concerned with people outside the limits.
In the parable Jesus tells of the failure of compassion by the religious people and of the wonderful caring of the Good Samaritan. At the end Jesus has a question for the Expert: "Which of these three was neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Now who is at the center? The injured man. Simply by the way Jesus asked the question the lenses through which followers of Jesus view others are defined. The question is not "Who is my neighbor?" but "To whom am I to be neighbor?"
How do we answer that question, "To whom am I to be neighbor?" in the context of the Great Commission ("Go, make disciples…"). Who are the ones who need?
Congregational transformation is about shifting both as individuals and as group from the Expert's perspective on neighbor to Jesus' perspective on neighbor.


This commentary relates to Congregational Transformation.

*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Taylor is executive director of the office of Congregational Transformation (OCT).

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