Luke 10: 29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”Who is the one type of person you could never show love to? Who is the one that you expect God to give you a pass on when it comes to showing love, forgiveness and grace to. We all have that person or group of people that we hold out of our heart and say surely God doesn't want me to love them!
For some of us it is a cultural bias. Maybe someone of a different race or with different political views. For others it may be more personal – a father who was abusive or a friend who betrayed you. Whatever the justification we all have the person or people who we will not show love to.
In the gospel of Luke chapter 10, Jesus was approached by a scribe who asked how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus pointed him back to the scriptures, emphasizing the need to love God above everything else and to love our neighbor as our self. Then the man asked a follow up question. “Who is my neighbor?”
This was more than an intellectual exercise. This man was looking for an excuse. Perhaps a more honest way to ask this question would be to say “If I have to love my neighbor then tell me who is not my neighbor so I know who I can freely hate.”
In response Jesus told a story – and not just because He is a masterful story teller, though He is. Jesus looked into the heart of this man and saw his prejudice. He picked the one group of people despised by the Jews above nearly all else – the Samaritans – and used them as the best example of loving your neighbor. The Jews of the first century hated the Samaritans. They would walk miles out of their way to avoid Samaritan villages. Anyone who had contact with a Samaritan was considered unclean. That is what made this story so shocking. A Samaritan saving a Jew. Imagine a member of ISIS saving the life of a Coptic Christian and you begin to understand the impact of Jesus' story.
The unasked question to the scribe is clear: “Would you show the same love to a Samaritan as the Samaritan showed in this parable?”
You see we all have Samaritans in our life, the ones we expect God to give us a pass on or an excuse to leave out. Yet God's answer is still the same. We are to love them just as God loves us. Fortunately God realizes that amount of unconditional love is impossible for us on our own, that is why He sent His Son to save us and His Spirit to empower us. It is through God that we can truly realize that everyone – regardless of our differences – is our neighbor and choose to show them love.
Discover more in this week's podcast "Choosing Love: Love Is An Action."
Till next time,
NOTE: This series was written to coincide with the Bible Studies For Life series "Like Glue" by Pastor Ben Mandrell available here.