27 He answered: 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. 28 “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. 34 He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 “The one who showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.”
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
The story of “The Good Samaritan” is one that has been told and retold over the years, but the context doesn’t always get communicated. However, most people know the accompanying question about what constitutes a neighbor: why is the answer in this passage a surprising one and why does it matter?
In conversation with a lawyer, Jesus is asked what it takes to have eternal life. Like many, the idea that this isn’t something you can earn can’t be understood by this lawyer. If I can’t work to achieve it, then how can I possibly be “good enough” to attain it?
Jesus responded to the lawyer by drawing him back to what’s written in the law. The lawyer remembers Deuteronomy 6:5, bringing Jesus’ answer back to a heart issue as opposed to action. (27He answered, “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 ”Love your neighbor as yourself.”)
The lawyer, wanting to find justification for not loving everyone without prejudice, asked who would be considered a neighbor. In other words, if some are neighbors, then surely it stands to reason that others wouldn’t make the cut—likely those that are not like himself.
He set the picture for the story of the Good Samaritan, and Jesus ended it by asking the lawyer who the neighbor truly was, then commanding him to go and do likewise. The lawyer knew the answers to both questions: what to do to inherit the kingdom of God and who a neighbor truly was. However, he had to get beyond himself to receive these things, and to live and love the way he’d been commanded.
A big part of being who we’re created to be is to love God and others. A neighbor is someone made in the image of God. With that as the only stipulation, then we’re clearly called to love and serve all. Knowing this changes who we are and how we process life. We are no better or worse than any we may walk beside. We are all made in the image of God, and therefore everyone is our neighbor. It isn’t about what we do—it is about who we are in Christ that compels us to act.
Lord please continue to grow our hearts and lives to see You first in people. Let us see people as You do, Your created ones, Your children, Your lost that need to know You as Lord and Savior. Lord please guide us to see through the lens of Your eyes as we encounter those around us who may not see ourselves in the same way. And Lord, please let us do this without the expectation of return. Please let us learn how to not only love our neighbors but to be good neighbors as well. Please work in our hearts today.
We seem to live in an “us” versus “them” society, even today. This world would strive to communicate that this isn’t true anymore, but if you simply sit and observe people in any given place you can see that people still struggle with the expectations and assumptions of who they assume others are all the time. You can see it on their faces if not in their words. There are too many piercings or tattoos, they are speaking a language I do not understand, “I have heard about them,” etc., etc., etc. We make excuses and justifications why we can or cannot trust people.
So the lawyer being told the story of the Good Samaritan is not far removed from issues people carry still today. Why do we still have a problem distinguishing and helping our neighbors? Years ago I remember being in a convenience store in West Philadelphia. The way the cashiers were dressed, I wouldn’t really be comfortable running into them in a dark alley. However not two minutes into my visit two others walked in. To me they looked much the same, but to the two already in there they were the “others.” They were from North Philly and there was no way they saw themselves as neighbors.
For that matter, my friend and I likely didn’t look like neighbors to either group either. We would have stood out like a sore thumb. What impression would it have made had we chosen to help either one of these groups if they found themselves in need? There were likely a million sensible reasons not to do so (safety, I don’t fit in, someone else will be here in a minute to help, I will do what I can from over there), but we were not called to be safe, we were called to be neighbors and to love well.
Our relationships with others and with God are intertwined as believers. To love God is to love those He created and to be a picture of that love in a world that doesn’t understand it.
Spend some time this week in an area that is out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to find a way to make that experience go beyond that day. It could be learning a task that is uncomfortable, working with a group you wouldn’t generally know, etc. Choose to get to know someone this week who would not have entered your life otherwise. Quite simply, choose to not look away when opportunities present themselves to help and love others well around you. To look at the world through the lens of Christ opens up doors you never would have imagined. Look at this week with expectation as you discover your neighbors and discover how to be a neighbor yourself.