30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Lionel and Charlene were the kind of neighbors everyone wants. When Julie and I moved in, they made us feel right at home. They introduced us to other neighbors, answered our questions and cared for us. Nice neighbors are easy to love. If all I had to do was love Lionel and Charlene ‘as myself’, I could coast into Heaven!
One day Jesus was asked a question by a very pious Bible teacher; “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with the Two Greatest Commandments of loving God completely and loving neighbor as self. At hearing this answer, the pious professor asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Instead of defining an area where the guy would need to act neighborly, Jesus told the story of The Good Samaritan.
It’s important to note here that Samaritans claimed to be Levites and the keepers of the ‘true’ Jewish faith. Samaritan literally means, ‘keeper’. The rest of the Jews rejected their claim, and Samaritans were ejected from Jewish life. No worship in the Temple. No eating with ‘true’ Jews. Outcasts.
Back to the story— a Jewish man had been mugged and left for dead. A priest walks right by, and later so does an off-duty priest (Levite). Then an enemy comes by—a Samaritan— someone who would normally expect to be disrespected by a Jewish man. He has pity on the bleeding Jew.
Jesus asks this pious teacher, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor…?” The law expert replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Then Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus is extending the boundaries of our thinking here. As we go about our day, who is our neighbor? The answer is: everyone. Who was the Samaritan? Outcast, needy, hurt, helpless, mistreated, enemy, less-than-you. Who was the Pious Professor? Holier-than-you, smarter-than-you, better-than-you, richer-than-you.
Everyone’s a neighbor to everyone.
After eleven years of being our neighbors, both Lionel and Charlene succumbed to cancer in the last few months. I miss them. I find myself wanting to pray for godly new neighbors, but what if God wants to put me right next to someone else – nosy, uncaring, belligerent, hellion, noisy, huge family, a cohabitating couple, sex offender, scoffer, flaming homosexual or constant complainer? The truth is, these folks already are my neighbors, whether they live right next door, on the other side of town or the other side of the world.
God, help us to love all our neighbors as ourselves, and give us the grace to be genuinely merciful.
“Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)
Pray for these churches:
First Baptist of Coldwater
Northview Christian Church