And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
It’s sad that the term “love your neighbor” has been so loosely used nowadays; so much so that it is a watered down version of Jesus’ words and throughout scripture.
People may use the term “love your neighbor” to excuse immoral or sinful behavior. But on the flip side - people may use the term “love your neighbor” by obsessing over and categorizing who their neighbor really is.
The lawyer in this story poses the same question to Jesus:
“Who is my neighbor?”
But that’s not the question he should have asked.
“How can I be a neighbor?”
That’s the real question. And that’s the question Jesus answers. Without exhaustive debate or argument, Jesus shares a parable of The Good Samaritan.
In this parable, a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is attacked and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest walks by but ignores the man and crosses to the other side of the road, continuing on his way. This happens again with a Levite who continues his journey completely ignoring the obviously hurting man laying on the side of the road.
But along came a Samaritan - one who was generally disdained and looked down upon by the Jews because of cultural and religious differences - who stops to help the one left for dead.
…he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
A priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. When standing next to one another in a lineup, if you were looking for one who would/should extend mercy, your first pick would be the Priest. Or even the Levite. Both were from a priestly line of Israelites and should have known and followed God’s law but failed to show love to their fellow brother in need.
But Jesus not only wanted the lawyer to understand how to be a neighbor but that our perspective of who we see as our neighbor needs to change first.
Samaritans were somewhat of the outcasts. There was a long-standing hostility that separated the Jews from the Samaritans. They were deemed unclean as the by-products of the mixed marriages of their ancestors and the Jews considered them “half-breeds” due to their lineage.
But how could the lawyer deny the compassion and mercy the Samaritan man extended to the injured man in comparison to the “holy” ones who walked right past?
Jesus wanted him to see that not only was the Samaritan being a good neighbor, but by breaking the divisive barrier of race and hostility towards the least of these, the hero of the story was not one everyone would cheer for.
A person who the Jews would consider as “less-than” and “undeserving” showed compassion for one who would have considered him an enemy.
Not only was the Good Samaritan being a good neighbor, but in hearing this story, it was a reality check for the lawyer to realize he can be a good neighbor by releasing his self-righteousness towards those who are “less than.”
Leviticus 19:18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.”
Matthew 19:19, Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, James 2:8 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Just like Jesus turned the question around from “WHO is my neighbor?”, we need to ask ourselves “how can WE be good neighbors?”
Like the lawyer testing Jesus, we try to justify our actions. We justify our apathy. We justify XY and Z - you name it. We give excuses and reasons for why a person shouldn’t receive OUR good neighborliness. As if we are such amazing and high standing people whom the servants must bow down and kiss the rings on our fingers!
Need I remind you, CHRIST SHOWED US MERCY FIRST!
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7
And He modeled His mercy throughout His ministry here on earth.
Your neighbor is the least of these.
The Good Samaritan Luke 10:25-37
Your neighbor is the hopeless.
The thief on the cross Luke 23:39-43
Your neighbor is the outcast.
The woman at the well John 4:4-42
Your neighbor is the rejected.
Zaccheus the Tax Collector Luke 19:1-10
Your neighbor is the sick and broken.
The leper Luke 5:12-16
The Paralytic Luke 5:17-26
Levi/Matthew the tax collector Luke 5:27-32
The sinful woman Luke 7:36-50
Legion the demoniac Luke 8:26-39
The Lost Son Luke 15:11-32 (those who betray you)
“We are called not only to love those who are similar to us or with whom we are comfortable, but all whom God places in our path. In fact, Jesus said, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:44–48). God shows love to all people (John 3:16–18; Romans 1:19–20; 2 Peter 3:9). As His children (John 1:12), we are called to do the same.” ~ gotquestions.org
When the Samaritan helped the man, it said he had compassion. He was moved out of love and mercy for a stranger. He didn’t stop to think, “What will I get out of this? How will this benefit me?”
No, it says “he bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”
What the Good Samaritan did required sacrifice. Required being uncomfortable as he placed the man on his own animal and walked on foot. He attended to his every need by tending his wounds, carrying him to the inn, and paying his way.
He put the man’s needs before his own, truly loving him as a neighbor.
You’re probably thinking, “so, what do you mean? I should just go be a doctor, give all my money and pay for people’s rent? Accept what they do and turn the other cheek and let them walk all over me?”
No - and that’s not what Jesus meant either.
He posed the question, “Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
It wasn’t the money or awesome medical aid, it was the Good Samaritan’s MERCY. The Samaritan had nothing in it for him. The injured man was a stranger. Most likely someone who wouldn’t normally mix in the same crowd of people with him.
But Jesus says to “go and do likewise.”
Jesus emphasizes loving your neighbor many times during His ministry. Why? Why is it important and vital to live out in our Christian faith?
Because WE are called to love. As God’s people. We are called to LOVE. To love our neighbor. Not only because we are commanded to do it, but because we have received so much mercy.
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” Titus 3:5
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:36-37
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Jesus said to go into all the world...not just the areas that accept you. Not just the areas that are clean and easy.
Our neighbor is anyone we can share God’s love with. Which is basically EVERYONE. None are left out because God calls the WHOLE world, WHOSOEVER, to come to HIM. (John 3:16)
Our neighbors are those who don’t agree with us, those who side with different political beliefs, those who have no homes, who have no families. Our neighbors are the road ragers, the ones who cut in line, the celebrities and the underdogs. Those who believe differently from us. Those who could care less if we live or die.
Loving one’s neighbor is more than simply loving people who are like you and who can love you in return. Jonah didn’t have that heart when he shared truth with the Ninevites - and after they repented, waited for their demise. We cannot love with self-righteousness.
We cannot love without loving God first.
We love our neighbors, including our neighbors who seem like enemies to us, when we act toward them with a heart that first loves God. We love our neighbors out of an overflow of God’s love for us and as a way of demonstrating our love toward God (1 John 4:7–12; Colossians 4:5–6; 1 Peter 3:15–16). ~ gotquestions.org
Your view of who God is enlightens your view of who you are which changes your view of who your neighbor is.
So, I have a question for you. WHO are YOU?
Are you going to offer help like the Samaritan or, instead, justify NOT helping by asking useless questions of “does this person deserve my help?”
“What grounds the way we think about neighbors is actually our identity, not theirs. What matters first is who we are.” ~ desiringgod.org
We are the people of God. We are His hands and feet.
It’s time to live that out, amen?
Luke 10:27 “And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
~ Kissy Black
Lord Jesus, thank You for living out love in such a way there was no question as to the extent of love You showed to this world. God, humble us to set aside our pride and our posture of deserving things and remind us of the mercy You pour out upon us every single day. Holy Spirit give us discernment in how to show Your love and how to serve the lost and the hurting and broken in such a way that would glorify You. That You would show Your love for them through it. Teach us to see with Your heart. Give us new perspective. And ultimately, that Your love would overflow to Your people through us. Amen