Who Is My Neighbor?

“’Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?’ Jesus asked. The man replied, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Yes, now go and do the same.’” (Luke 10:36-37 NLT)

We often remember the story of the good Samaritan, but we don’t always remember the context in which that story was told. An expert in religious law had asked Jesus a question, but, as we might say today, there was “method in his madness.” Just seeing his description as an “expert” should tip us off that he’s not there simply to ask a question, he’s there to try to trip Jesus up, to have Him say something that will bring doubt not only to what He says, but to who He is.

This man knew the law inside and out. It’s likely that he’d memorized great portions of Moses writings, so if Jesus even hints at something that isn’t in line with those Scriptures, he could call Him on it. It’s funny to me, from my present perspective, that this mere man thought he could catch the Author of those writings saying something out of line. “Whoa, wait a second! Didn’t you just say Moses wrote those words?” Yes, I did, but where do you think Moses got them?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Why is that important? Because we’re not so different than the “expert” with whom Jesus was speaking. Some who read these posts are students of God’s Word, as I am. We’re all students! We’re all still learning, and whether we choose to admit it or not, none of us have arrived, in terms of our knowledge and understanding of the Bible.

Yet, our behavior isn’t always guided by what we know, it’s too often motivated by what we desire. The “expert” with whom Jesus was speaking, though very knowledgeable, reveals an emptiness his knowledge couldn’t fill. All of his study, all of his hours of pouring over the sacred texts, couldn’t give him the satisfaction only a relationship with God could give. He actually asked the right question; he just couldn’t accept the right answer.

He knew he needed to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, but in all his brilliance, he missed what that needed to look like – love others as you love yourself. We too often do the same thing. We want to love God fully and faithfully, as long as we don’t have to love people who do __________ or belong to “that” political party or denomination.

What was the point of Jesus’ “Good Samaritan” story? That we should love those who show mercy? Yes, of course, but there’s much more to the story. That expert in religious law, for all his learning, still despised the Samaritans. It galled him to hear Jesus say he should love “them.” But the truth is, that story isn’t just for a Jewish religious leader, it’s for me and you.

The real question is – Who is MY neighbor? Oswald Chambers had it right when he wrote: “If my heart is right with God, every human being is my neighbor.” Think of that young “hot rod” who cut you off; that shabby homeless person trying to sell you flowers at a stop light; the person holding the sign about the right to have an abortion; the lobbyist who favors the rights of those you don’t think should have the same rights as “us;” the politician who holds views you strongly oppose; and on and on we could go.

What’s my point? Simply this, as children of God we don’t get to choose who we love. And I’m extremely glad that’s the way it is. Why? Because I suspect if God was choosing us on the basis of who deserved to be loved and accepted, He would likely have passed over me… and you!

Food for thought.

Blessings, Ed 😊

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: