Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Neighbors


Understandably, all sorts of people had all kinds of questions for Jesus. In Luke 10:25-28, we read, “One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: ‘Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus replied, ‘What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?’ The man answered, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘Right!’ Jesus told him. ‘Do this and you will live!’”

Jewish tradition recognizes 613 commandments. When asked to choose one, this man had a 99.8% chance of getting it wrong, and he nailed it! Imagine being praised by Jesus. How awesome would that be? However, although he answered correctly to begin with, his follow up question reveals more about his heart. Verse 29, “The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” Jesus goes on to tell the story of the Good Samaritan. This “expert in religious law” obviously knew the law, but it had not changed him at all. He was “trying to justify his actions.” Did you catch that? What actions? There are obviously people he did not see as his neighbor. Those he did not “approve” of, the “others,” the “unclean,” the “unrighteous.” One of those groups were the Samaritans, which is exactly why Jesus tells this parable where the “hero” of the story is a Samaritan.

As Christians, we believe we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our strength, and all our mind, as well as loving our neighbors as ourselves. However, during times like these, perhaps we should all honestly ask ourselves, are there any Samaritans in my life? Any person or group of people we do not view as our “neighbors?” Do we see them as the “others,” unworthy of our compassion and love? Do we try to justify or rationalize such feelings?

More importantly than knowing the answer to Jesus’ question is living out the answer every day. Followers of Jesus should be known, recognizable, not because they get the highest score on the quiz, but because of our service, mercy, compassion, grace, and especially our love. The world should see in us the truth that we love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and that we love others – all others – the same way. After all, the Bible says, “Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).        

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