Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He 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.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’
(Luke 10: 25-29)
In answer to the lawyer’s question, Jesus tells what has come to be called the story of ‘The Good Samaritan’. In the story a Jewish traveler is robbed, beaten, and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A Priest and a Levite (religious authorities) both pass by the man and do not help him. But a Samaritan, someone who in Jesus time was viewed as an outcast and sinner by good religious folks, stops to help this man and tend his wounds and take him into town for help. He even pays for his medical expenses and his room and board while he is recovering. Jesus then asks the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer replies, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus says to him [and us], “Go and do likewise.”
Our neighbors are not just the people who live next door or down the street. Neighbors come in many forms; in the faceless strangers we pass every day on the street, at work, at school, and in the grocery store. By Jesus’ definition, my neighbor is anyone in need whether they need kindness, a helping hand, a word of encouragement, healing, hope, or simply to know someone cares. We are called to show God’s love to them. Jesus does not actually answer the man’s question directly. The man asked, “Who is MY neighbor?” At the end, Jesus turns the question around and asks, “Who was a neighbor TO this man?” Then he challenges, “Go and do likewise.”
Who is your neighbor? It may be someone you haven’t even met yet. Pay attention to the people God puts in your path and seek ways that you can be a neighbor to them. To those who are not connected to a church family, perhaps the only evidence of God’s love is the evidence they see in us. May God send someone into your life today who needs to know the love of God and may you have the faith and courage to reach out in love to them in the name of Jesus.
Peace to you,