The National Youth Gathering and the Good Samaritan

The National Youth Gathering and the Good Samaritan

“…and who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:33

On Sunday, July 21st, Pastor Tom shared in his sermon a view of the classic story, The Good Samaritan, which was a new perspective for me. He explained that there are three ways in which we can view other people, just like in the parable:

Mark: If we view people as a mark, like the thieves who looked for someone to rob, we are not really viewing people as human beings, but rather as objects, or even as a means to an end. Whether we are robbing someone, or manipulating someone for our gain, or even when we are saying something negative about a person, we are viewing them as a mark. They are someone we can harm and we are not seeing a person as a neighbor.

Threat: It is more likely that you feel like the priest or the Levite in the story when you are not acting like a neighbor. It is easy to see people and feel like they are a threat. In the story of the Samaritan, even though he was beaten and bleeding on the side of the road, he seemed like a threat because it is easy to worry that we would not want to get mixed up with “that kind of person.”

Neighbor: As Pastor Tom showed from the dictionary definition, a neighbor is another human being. It is a simple definition that requires us to see others as something OTHER than a mark or a threat. A neighbor is someone just like us.

I have shared on numerous occasions how much I love attending the National Youth Gathering with our high school aged Youth. I have attempted to share how wonderful it is to worship, sing praises, and celebrate with 25,000 people. However, until now, I have never been able to adequately describe one of the most impressive and wonderful aspects of the gathering. I found the description in the words of Pastor Tom.

WE ARE NEIGHBORS! At the Gathering, we have 25,000 people all wearing the same kind of t-shirt, the same bracelet, and the same backpack. For a few wonderful days, we can give free hugs, knowing that we are safe to do so as we move along to other people and places. We are able to strike up conversations with all of the people near us, usually just by asking, “Where are you from?” The concept that a person may be a threat is gone. In the safety of the Gathering, we have the ability to live as neighbors and interact as neighbors. The Youth quickly adapt to this new experience and relish the chance to relate to each other without the fear of threat or with the temptation of making someone a mark.

All of this would be enough to love, if it were only the relationships between the youth and adults who are attending the gathering…but there is more. Together, we embrace the city and the people of that city.

We share the message of Jesus and our purpose for being in the city with people we meet. We bring food, school supplies, work forces, and so much more to make a difference in the city and bring witness to Jesus. Again, for a few days, we are neighbors to a bunch of people we have never met.

The Gathering is something beautiful and rare that I have long wanted to bring back for the day to day ministry at Bethany. Lifetree Café is the same concept. It is a safe gathering place where people can meet and talk. It is a place to be a neighbor to someone else without the fear of threat and without the desire to make others into a mark. I pray that through this new ministry, we truly can be neighbors to . . . our neighbors whom we will invite to join us.

God’s Peace,

Pastor Jon