Love your neighbor?

Love your neighbor?

The basis for the Culture of Christ are the Great Commandments as laid out by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25-28, to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as ourselves.

The first part of the Great Commandments is easy to understand. It’s pretty straightforward and logical. The second part, now that can be something else entirely.

As Christians, we know who God is, but who is our neighbor?

That is one of the questions that “an expert in the law,” a lawyer or a scholar if you will, posed to Jesus one day in the 10th chapter of Luke.

The lawyer’s first question was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replies with two questions of his own.

“What is written in the Law?’ he replied. “How do you read it?”

But like Jesus said to the lawyer, we must all go out and do the same as the Samaritan no matter how hard it is to do so.

What’s interesting is that Jesus asked him what was actually written in the law and then he followed up with how the lawyer interpreted the written law.

We may know what the law says, but do we interpret it rightly.

We may very well know what God is calling for us to do, but are we interpreting it as such.

The lawyer answers Jesus, “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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Jesus had confirmed for the lawyer what he had already known about the law, but instead of leaving with his confirmation, the lawyer asked a follow-up question.

You have to be careful when you ask Jesus a follow-up question. The answer that He might give you may not be the one you were looking for and the answer may also come with some homework that you may not be willing to do. Ask the rich, young ruler.

The lawyer’s follow-up question is, “And who is my neighbor?”

The Bible says he asked his follow-up question because he wanted to justify himself.

In other words, he wanted to make sure that his definition or interpretation of neighbor was the same as Jesus’ definition.

Jesus, as he is prone to do, answered the man with a parable.

Luke 10:30-37

“A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

I must admit that when I think of the parable of the Good Samaritan, I didn’t think of it as an answer to how we should live out the Great Commandments – the Culture of Christ. But, the parable is a perfect precept of how we are to love one another.

Jesus tended to go to extremes when he had teachable moments with his disciples or others that he encountered. This is very helpful, because if you can grasp and even apply the most extreme case, or worst-case scenario of a situation, then it should be easy to apply the lesson in general.

There are five lessons that we can learn from the parable of the Good Samaritan about how we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

1. Our Neighbors include people who we may despise

To say that Samaritans and Jews did not like each other would be an understatement.

“Imagine the hatred between Serbs and Muslims in modern Bosnia, the enmity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland or the feuding between street gangs in Los Angeles or New York, and you have some idea of the feeling and its causes between Jews and Samaritans in the time of Jesus. Both politics and religion were involved.” – Pat McCloskey, Franciscan Media.

“Even though he was considered a “despised Samaritan,” he rose above such shallowness to care for a fellow human being. I compare the Samaritan’s actions to a 19th century American slave showing compassion to a plantation owner, or a Jewish prisoner demonstrating concern for a Nazi guard during WWII.” – Joe Plemon, Personal Finance by the Book

2. Seeing our neighbor in need is not enough

The Bible says that both the priest and the Levite (temple assistant) saw the man on the road, but did nothing. The Samaritan not only saw the man, but when he saw him, the Bible says he had compassion for him. The priest and the temple assistant may have indeed felt bad for the man, they may have even said a silent prayer for him, but even if they did, it didn’t amount to anything for the man in need.

3. True compassion for our neighbors leads to action

The Samaritan not only felt compassion for the man, but he followed up that sentiment with action.

• He alleviated his pain – soothed his wounds olive oil and wine

• He help the man to heal – bandaged his wounds

• He got him out of harm’s way – put the man on his donkey

• He took him to a safe place – took him to an inn

• He spent time with him – he took care of him through the night

4. True love for our neighbors requires investment

I’m sure the Samaritan had somewhere he had to be and did not make it there because he ending up spending the night caring for the man. Instead of leaving the man to his own devices and getting back to his own life, the Samaritan paid for the room and implored the innkeeper to “take care of the man.” He even went a step further and said that if the care for this man costs any more than he had just paid, that he would reimburse the innkeeper the next time he saw him. That was a true investment in the man’s welfare and well being.

5. We must do the same

Loving our neighbors as ourselves requires that we know three things:

• 1) Who God Is

• 2) Who our neighbors are

• 3) Who we are

As. Christians, we know who God is and what He has done for us through His son, Jesus the Christ. Just as Jesus talks about our need to look out for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:40, he also unequivocally defines our neighbor as absolutely everybody including the “worst of these.”

In order to heed the command that Jesus gave to the lawyer to “now go and do the same,” we must know ourselves. In knowing ourselves, we must understand that it all but absolutely impossible for us to:

• See people who we despise as our neighbors

• See our neighbors who are in need and have compassion for them

• Turn our compassion for our neighbors into action

• Take our action one step further by investing our time, effort and resources into our neighbors wellbeing

Since these tasks are all but impossible on our own especially on a consistent basis, we have to simply admit to ourselves that we can’t do them on our own. The only way we can truly love our neighbors as ourselves is if we ask God to let his infinite love manifest itself in us and through us.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

I’m sure there are plenty of examples today of members of the Body of Christ doing what the Good Samaritan did and even more. However, we are inundated every day with the counter narrative of man’s inhumanity to man.

Loving our neighbors as ourselves is not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. I often say that Christianity is the hardest thing you’ll ever do and if it’s not then you’re not doing it right.

But like Jesus said to the lawyer, we must all go out and do the same as the Samaritan no matter how hard it is to do so.