You may or may not know this is the question that prompted Jesus to share a story that ended with the question, “Who was a neighbor?”
The expert in religious law who asked the question likely did so in a snarky manner; don’t you think? Jesus had just confirmed for the man the two greatest commandments given as the way to inherit eternal life. “The man had 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.’””
I can’t help but feel that Mr. Expert asked this question about who his neighbor was so that he could be exonerated from helping those people… the untouchable, the unclean, the icky, the messy. Kinda like we feel today.
Jesus’ answer was less about who the neighbor to love is and more about how loving as a neighbor we are. His story told of an untouchable, unclean, icky, messy soul, beaten and left in a ditch and three different men who came upon him.
His question to Mr. Expert wasn’t whether or not the one in the ditch was the neighbor, but which one of the three who came along was the neighbor.
Two of the three were men who held this truth as a part of their life and livelihood. They were men who led the community in religious study, supposedly pointing people to God. And they both walked by.
The third man was one with whom Jews wouldn’t even associate. A Samaritan heathen who was lower than low. Yet he is the one who acted as though He knew God and understood loving Him and loving others.
I’m pretty sure Mr. Expert never saw that coming. He was wrapped up in the Law and expected Jesus to delineate those who weren’t to be considered neighbors and what he got was an edict to BE a neighbor without worrying who you were loving.
There’s a lesson in that for us. If you’ve read my writings much, you’ve seen me talk about Jesus talks about loving one another. Those one anothers are other believers. These verses, however, are not about one another, they are about those we encounter every day. They may or may not know God. They may or may not smell good or wear clean clothes. They may or may not babble to themselves. They may or may not live in a nice place. They may or may not drink, do drugs, or use foul language.
Jesus doesn’t say a thing about them in this story, though. He describes the one who is loving toward them. He describes the person we who are His followers are supposed to be, going above and beyond to help that one in need.
But, Faye! I can’t help every person I see that is in need!
Of course not. But you can help the one that God points to. That one you see and feel a prompting to go and talk to, bring fresh water to, supply with clothing or food, or in other ways meet their needs.
This is about loving that person you see, but in truth, it’s mostly about listening to the Holy Spirit living in you. The vertical relationship — the one between you and God — affects the horizontal relationships. When the vertical is right, the horizontal touches lives and makes a difference in our world.
So, let me ask, are you a neighbor? I hope you decide to be one like the Samaritan today and every day.
Coffee, Bible, Journal.