Won't You Be My Neighbor?
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.' Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
Luke 10: 25-37
This is personally one of my favorite gospel stories. I like this story for two reasons, 1. It reaches outside of our faith and is known and respected in the secular world as well and 2. It is very relatable. Many regardless of their belief know the story of the good Samaritan and try to live by the mantra of being the Good Samaritan daily. I believe this story has so much wisdom packed into one story and for this week's post I want to unpack as much of it as I can, but I expect that we will need to return to this story many times in the future to learn everything it has to offer.
At the beginning of the story, we find a scholar of the law testing Jesus. In the typical Jesus way instead of answering the question straight up, He follows up with another question and then tells a parable to illustrate a point. Many of us can find ourselves with the same question the scholar had… How do we attain eternal life? Well according to the scripture we should love God with all our heart, being, strength, and mind, as well as our neighbor as ourselves. I personally like the way this verse is broken down into bite-size pieces that are easier to understand and digest.
First, we should Love God with all of our hearts. That means that we should give up our own ways to pursue God’s way. Asking Him to come into our hearts and save us from our sins. Romans 10:10 says, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Secondly, we should love God with all of our beings, this means we should use the person God created us to be as an act of service to God and others. We are called to be the light of the Lord in this dark world. Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The third thing we should do is love God with all of our strength. It takes strength to be a believer in this world. Being a Christian will make you stand out in the world and it takes true strength to overcome and keep the faith when the world is against you. Jeremiah 32:17 tells us that we must lean into God for our strength since He is the true source of power and strength, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” We must also love God with all of our minds, which means that we should spend time pondering and studying the things of the Lord not on things of this world. Our minds are what puts into action the things we have learned from the Lord. Joshua 1:8 says, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Lastly, we must love our neighbors as ourselves. This is where it can get a little tricky and the question of who is actually my neighbor arises.
In the scripture, we see the scholar again testing the Lord and requesting clarification on who his neighbor really is. Jesus’ response is the well-known story of the Good Samaritan. As I stated before, there is much to learn from this small portion of scripture. First, we see that being a neighbor has nothing to do with your geographical location. It is more about our mindset towards others and our willingness to step outside of our needs to help them. We see that God always gives us the opportunity to be a neighbor to others but many times it takes us off the path we think we are supposed to be on. If we are just willing to look outside of our way and across the road we might find there is someone to be helped. We can also see that you don’t have to have a certain skill or title to care for others. You don’t have to be a doctor, teacher, or first responder to take care of the needs of others you just have to be willing. Both the priest and the Levite passed by the man without helping him despite being from religious backgrounds. The last thing we can learn from this passage is that when we stop and help, we should go above and beyond to help in every way we can. The Good Samaritan could have just bandaged the man up and gone on his way but instead, he put him on his animal and took him to an inn where he would be cared for in the Good Samaritan's absence. Then once returning he would pay the remainder of what was due for the care of the beating man.
The good Samaritan is an ultimate example of how we should be and how a neighbor acts on behalf of others. Even when it is out of our way or just not convenient we should be helping others as Jesus would have done. This week I challenge you to look outside of yourself and your community and be a neighbor to people that you don't always come in contact with. It is always easy to care for the people who care for you but not at easy to care for the people that cannot return the favor.