Who is my neighbor?
But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29
In today’s reading, a lawyer trays to trap Jesus in the question of “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered the question by telling a story about a good Samaritan. It was a parable about a man that had been beaten and robbed almost to the point of death. He was left on the road and three different people walked by, but only one stopped to take care of the man. It was a Samaritan. a stranger in that land, not someone who lived close by. He helped the wounded man and then took him someplace and paid for his stay until he was well enough to get back to his life.
This question of how do I “love my neighbor as myself” has always been something hard for me to grasp. Almost like a vapor, very cloudy, because I think I didn’t feel it was attainable or I just didn’t understand how. Then God showed me a practical way to view my neighbor so I would know how to love them with the God kind of love. When I see my neighbor, I see myself. If I see my neighbor struggling with something, what would I do if it were myself or what would I want someone to do for me if I was the one struggling with the same thing? If I see my neighbor rejoicing about something, how would I want others to rejoice with me if I were celebrating something?
Now that I looked at it from this angle, it seemed very simple to understand, but not so simple to follow through. The first thing to identify is, who is my neighbor? Is it those who live next door to me or in my neighborhood? What if I live in the country and don’t have anyone living close to me? Secondly, how do I know what to do to “love” them? Jesus used the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate loving your neighbor as yourself. This parable, about strangers who passed by a man that was dying from being mugged, Jesus calls the man who showed mercy to him his neighbor. The Samaritan didn’t even know the guy and he certainly didn’t live next door to him. I also want to make the point that this was not a fellow believer, this was a dirty, hurting, dying, helpless, and hopeless sinner. The point is that anyone you can do good to is your neighbor, even those who look like they do not deserve it.
The last thing I want to consider is why does God want me to love my neighbor as myself? Is it only to make rules for me to keep me in line and to make life hard for me? Is it to make me look like a good person? No, the reason is to show others the very heart of God! The only way others can know God loves them is if they see His heart in our actions. The other part of that is, we can see God’s heart in action when we are showing it to others. If you want to see a great act of God, then watch it play out in your love for your “neighbor”.
Today and every day I encourage you to be watching for people that God will send across your path to “love” as you love yourself and do good to them as you would do for yourself. Let your actions toward others reflect the heart of God’s love for them. Begin to look for opportunities to do for someone else, what you want to do for yourself and soon you will be continually showing the world how much God loves them all.
Today’s scripture reading: Luke 10:25-37
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.
34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’
36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”