Luke 10:36-37, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
“We reserve the right to care for everyone!”
50 years ago, a popular children’s show began with a very powerful song:
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”
In the parable we are exploring this week, a lawyer asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” At the end of the story Jesus asks another question in return, “Which of these… proved to be a neighbor?” Jesus is clearly communicating the truth that the real neighbor is the Samaritan. The person who is deserving of love is the very last person who the lawyer would want to love.
The lawyer is looking for ways to draw lines between the people we are supposed to love, and those we aren’t; he wants to love people who are easy and obvious to love.
The powerful message of Jesus is two-fold: first, to love our neighbor means to love every person we encounter. Often the last person we want to love is that neighbor. Who is your Samaritan? Is it the anti-Christian atheist? Is it the morally bankrupt politician? Is it the bully at school, the rude neighbor down the street, or the lazy and entitled co-worker? Whoever you think is furthest from God (and probably the most frustrating to you), is just as loved by God as you are!
Second, Jesus commands the lawyer (and us) to, “Go and do likewise.” Not only is this a parable about who we are to love; it is about how we are to love. Are you willing to be a neighbor in the way the Samaritan was, giving your time, your energy, and your finances to care for others, no matter who they are?
How can you take one step this week to both being a neighbor and loving your neighbor, as we see in this parable? Maybe the first step is simply identifying who your “Samaritan” is, and then asking God to give you an opportunity, and a heart, to love them.
Dear Lord, there are people in my heart I don’t know how to love. Please reveal them to me and give me the power and courage to love my neighbor, whoever they are. In the name of Jesus, the One who loved me while I was still a sinner, Amen.