“Love your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27(b)
Who is my neighbor? This is the question that the Jewish lawyer asked Jesus. He wanted to trick Jesus into narrowly defining the term. But Jesus had a very clever and truthful answer.
Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. According to Luke 10:25-37, a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was brutally attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest passed by and did not help the hurt man. Then a Levite passed by the man and ignored the situation. Finally, a Samaritan saw the badly beaten stranger and stopped, cleaned his wounds with his own hands, lifted him onto his own donkey, and spent his own money to help him recover in a nearby inn.
That’s love. Have you ever wondered why Jesus made a point to highlight the helper’s ethnicity? The parable is famous as “The Good Samaritan.” We refer to anyone who helps a stranger as a Good Samaritan. Why?
In Jesus’ day, the Jews and Israelites hated the Samaritans. Samaritans intermarried with other nationalities against God’s law. God wanted the Israelites to only marry other Israelites because God knew foreign husband and wives would introduce the Jews to foreign and false gods. The one true God wanted to protect His chosen people from this idolatry.
So the Israelites self-righteously hated the Samaritans because they considered their obedience to be better than that of the Samaritans.
So back to why this matters…
The beaten man was a Jew. His own people, a priest and a Levite, abandoned him in his misery. But his enemy, the one he likely hated, stopped and sacrificed his own things and reputation to help.
The lesson is this: to love our neighbor as ourselves is to love our enemies as much as we love ourself. Until we can do this, we are not truly obeying God’s commandment.
Our “neighbor” is not just someone who lives in our neighborhood. Our “neighbor” is not simply someone we like. Our “neighbor” is specifically those it would be hard to love. And to love does not merely mean send good thoughts. It means to actively put oneself out to aid such person.
Take time today to pray for God to soften your heart toward your perceived enemies. But don’t stop there; seek to help them in a very practical way. You may be surprised what it does to your heart and your relationships.
- Why does God want us to love our enemies as ourselves? (Read Romans 5:10)
- What enemy can you help and how?
- What is keeping you from living out this commandment?
Lord, You are a merciful God who showed me the ultimate love by sending your Son to die for my sins while I was still your enemy. Help me to see others as you see them and see me. Give me a love for my enemies that will enable me to obey your commandment to love my neighbor as myself.
In Jesus’ name,