Who Is My Neighbor?
Being a Good Samaritan in a Connected World
NavPress 2010, 165 pp. ISBN 978-1-61521-723-6
Steve Moore is the president and CEO of The Mission Exchange, a US network of leaders in the Great Commission community. His life mission is to inspire and equip leaders to live a focused life, finish well, and join with God in blessing the nations. Steve is also the author of the ground-breaking book While You Were Micro-Sleeping. This book is available in a digital "freemium" version at www.whoismyneighborbook.com. It includes links to videos to supplement each chapter, including a video prequel, or backstory on each of the big ideas. There is also an online assessment at www.MyPassionProfile.com.
"Now that you have access to the needs of the whole world in the palm of your hand who really is your neighbor?" (18)
"One's level of responsibility is determined by proximity, how close we are to what happened; urgency, how serious the need; and capacity, how qualified or capable we are to offer assistance or add value." (20)
proximity + urgency + capacity = responsibility
But when the needs of others are tragic, chronic and epidemic, urgency is sustained, proximity is irrelevant and responsibility for action is difficult to identify.
In the story Jesus told, proximity was the primary variable affecting responsibility but in a flat world, proximity is almost irrelevant. We don't have to be near someone to know of their need. The question, Who is my neighbor?, has never been more complicated.
Part I. Reconnecting with the Good Samaritan
1. Rediscovering the Good Samaritan
The parable of the Good Samaritan is easy to read, but it is difficult to live. The process of capturing the meaning of the single thought embedded in a parable involves a careful and prayerful analysis of the setting, story, and sequel." (29) This parable had a dramatic and unexpected plot twist that would make a Jew gag: the hero is a Samaritan, not a Jew. Jesus makes a hero out the Samaritan who took initiative.
It is not the responsibility of others to become our neighbor. We must take the initiative. "God expects us to take the initiative, crossing boundaries and overcoming barriers, to show His mercy by serving others." (34)
2. Redefining the Neighborhood
In Jesus' day, there was a deep racial prejudice. To be called a Samaritan was the worst kind of insult. Jesus saw this blind spot in the disciples and exposed it when they encountered the woman at the well in Sychar, a Samaritan village. When the disciples saw Jesus overcoming these boundaries they recognized him as the savior of the world, not merely of the Jews.
"The 'go and do likewise' exhortation in the sequel of the Good Samaritan redefined the neighborhood to include people who are not like you (Samaritans), don't like you, can't repay you, and wouldn't thank you to do so." (42) How can we overcome barriers and practice this truth by serving others? It will require much grace.
3. From Information to Action
"How you respond to the needs of others depends on who you love the most. If you love God first, you will live others-focused." (48) Jesus described a pattern where information leads to compassion that demands action. However, we are easily sidetracked between compassion and action. It is too easy for good intentions to get lost in the hurried pace of life. Yet we still tend to feel spiritual merit for having the intention. This is a dangerous form of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. We also tend to think someone else should do something, turning the attention away from our own responsibility. Sometimes we rationalize and make excuses because, after all, we can't do everything. Or we justify ourselves, suggesting that others bring these things upon themselves, as if that disqualifies them from our help.
If we take these escape routes often enough we may learn to bypass compassion altogether. Virtual proximity can lead to information overload and compassion fatigue. As the flow of information overwhelms us, there is increasing pressure to take an exit ramp on the way to action.
Part 2. Connecting with Your Passions
4. Two Streams of Passion
God uses life-shaping experiences to create 'heartlinks' that help us organize and prioritize the passions that connect us with opportunities for service. Passions fall in two categories: interest-based passions (those things that we do well and that bring pleasure) and issues-based passions (those that bring fulfillment and a sense of purpose).
Passion, an inner source of motivation and self-directed initiative, can be understood as a hierarchy or pyramid. At the lowest level we want to learn more, in the second level we seek to engage, in the third level we want to influence others, and in the fourth level we are willing to sacrifice.
Identify your passions and pursue them. Use them to prioritize opportunities for service to others.
5. Four Domains of Passionate Engagement
(Note that we tend to devalue the contributions of those whose passions are different from ours and consider them uncommitted!)
You can get a model and framework and do an online assessment of your passions at www.MyPassionProfile.com. (A one-time free use comes with the purchase of the book.)
6. Passion-Fueled Purpose
"A great purpose is cumulative, and, like a great magnet, it attracts all that is kindred along the stream of life." (91) Ranking your passions will help you identify the causes to invest your time and resources in the service of others.
"How can you know if you're pursuing the highest purpose for your life? It must bring glory to God and serve or add value to others. it must be a God-first and others-focused agenda. But it will also connect your deepest sense of fulfillment with your greatest sense of accomplishment." (92) "Pursuing your life purpose will bring freedom and clarity to the decisions you make about crossing boundaries and overcoming barriers to show God's mercy by serving others." (93)
There is no simple formula but you can look at the clues from your journey, your identity and your opportunities. What relationships have shaped your life? What personal milestones surfaced giftedness? What pivotal turning points or choices have come from your opportunities? Are there any recurring overarching themes in your life, shaping you? Do you see evidence of God's providential intervention?
Passion helps clarify the "what" of your life purpose, but the "how" depends on how God made you. As you become aware of your temperament, strengths, skills and spiritual gifts, and grow in these areas, you develop your capacity to make a contribution. Then watch for the intersection of the "what" and the "how," where your highest issue-based passions connect with your unique identity. Use your passions and your identity to filter the opportunities that come your way.
Turn the lens of your history, identity, and opportunities to bring your life purpose into focus. Your issue-based passions can fuel the highest purpose for your life, connecting your deepest sense of fulfillment with your greatest sense of accomplishment. (102)
Part 3. Connecting with God's Passions
7. God's Passion for the Ultrapoor
The Bible talks about poverty in more than 2000 verses. We are commanded to be openhanded toward the poor and needy. Jesus came to preach the good news to the poor.
There are four faces of poverty: crisis, corruption, consequences, and choice. Crisis is represented by natural disasters and war. Corruption is rampant in our world. Much poverty is the consequence of poor decisions. But much more poverty is about the lack of options.
We often "feel" poor, but our involvement decisions should be based on our total inventory, not available cash.
8. God's Passion for the Oppressed
"Standing against oppression and injustice is a universal issue-based passion for Christ followers that is rooted in the gospel of the kingdom." (128) "And every time a Christ follower speaks out against injustice, we proclaim the gospel of the kingdom led by a King committed to set captives free." (129)
"The elevation of foreigners, widows, the fatherless, and orphans to a place of special concern in the eyes of God is based on their increased vulnerability to exploitation." (129)
From 12 to 27 million people are victims of modern-day slavery. As many as 15 million children are in bonded slavery in India alone. The UN estimates there are 16 million refugees and another 26 million in refugee-like situations. Human trafficking is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry. 80% of victims are women and girls.
9. God's Passion for the Lost
"Everyone has the same need for forgiveness, but not everyone has the same access to the gospel." (137)
"Lost people represent the highest priority passion of Jesus, and as Christ followers we are compelled to join Him in a relentless search." (140) "The biggest paradigm shift came when I realized Jesus didn't die for me: 'He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world' (I John 2:2). Jesus didn't die for you. He died for everyone." (141) "With lostness, eternity is at stake." (145)
"This distinction between importance and sequence is a point of confusion as well as caution. It brings confusion when those engaged in compassion ministries are wrongly criticized for giving priority, in terms of sequence, to physical needs. It is a point of caution when the emphasis on the horizontal (compassion ministries) indefinitely consumes the vertical (proclamation ministries). An 'all of the above' approach that gives attention to poverty, oppression, and spiritual darkness as a reflection of the fullness of God's heart, does not suggest equal emphasis at every point in the journey. There is a difference between importance and sequence." (145)
"The overlap between poverty, oppression, and lostness is remarkable. It has been said that the lost are the poor and the poor are the lost." (146)
10. What Is Your Life?
"The goal of faithful Christ followers is not to filter out needs but to organize and prioritize them, to PageRank issue-based passions based on life-shaping experiences that heartlink us with God-ordained causes and intersect with His purpose for our lives. We are called to take the initiative in crossing boundaries and overcoming barriers to show God's mercy by serving others. Even if they aren't like us, don't like us, won't thank us, and can't repay us." (152)
"When we surrender to God and yield to His leading, it opens the door to an adventure of obedience." (155)
You can't manufacture passion. Focus on intimacy with God, making surrender your daily priority. Embrace the adventure of obedience. Look for opportunities to put your strengths to work. (156) Embark on a passion-fueled journey toward the highest purpose for your life.
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