it’s a question that may come up within us if we listen to God’s nudging: his reminder to us to love our neighbor as ourselves. it’s a question that a lawyer actually asked Jesus when this command came up. yet, it’s a question that betrays our tendency, a tendency I see in my self and even in my own son, who just turned 3 this week. right now amos is testing just how much he has to share in order to stop being pestered. we just want to know the bare minimum to honor God.
Jesus’ answer to this question and our hearts came in the form of a parable so unsettling I feel it bears revisiting as it has spun away so far in today’s usage from it’s original radical intention.
THE Q & A AS IT WENT DOWN: Luke 10:25-37
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “ ‘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.’ ”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
THE SHORT ANSWER:
who is my neighbor? the very one you think is not your neighbor.
it was the samaritan who was the neighbor in the parable (v36). you gotta understand jews and samaritans DID NOT like each other. to jews, samaritans were mixed breeds – racially different, immoral, traitors to their people. a samaritan would be the last person you would think would help you!
THE ANSWER BROKEN DOWN:
i don’t think the main point of this parable is that we should just help out whoever’s in need…like what being a “good samaritan” has come to mean. it is true, we should help out people in need. but Jesus’ answer will not let us get away with some easy out like that! I believe there are at least three implications.
- Jesus says there is NO limit on who we care for
Jesus assumes, and rightly so, that by default we’re going to take care of our own people. our own family, our own friends, our own race…people that like us and ARE like us. the challenge that Jesus gets to our heart about is to love the people that we don’t love!!! If there’s an “us” in our minds he challenged us to love the “them” in our minds. he gets right to our disobedience, prejudice, our racism, or any other kind of –ism we got! our attitude toward “them” is often not out-right hate. It’s the people we live life ignoring…that have nothing to do with us. it’s the people we simply NEVER consider. who are the people that I just don’t like or that don’t like me?
- Jesus says there is NO limit on how much we care for people
Jesus is careful to detail in the story all the effort the samaritan goes through to care for the wounded jewish man. seven things (at least). and the last thing was essentially like a blank check…an open door for whatever further needs were necessary.
this is inconvenient stuff. the samaritan had to stop what he was doing to help. this is THE BIGGEST hurdle that’s even backed up by social psychological research. people generally don’t help bc they don’t stop…we think it’s someone else’s problem. Jesus clearly and consistently through the gospels communicates to us that there is NO boundary on how much we care for people. someone asks you for something, give without expecting anything back. someone tells you to go a mile, go another mile with that person. someone takes from you, don’t demand it back but even give him the shirt off your back.
ok, if you’re anything like me, you’re like “there is NO WAY I could do this!” come on Jesus there has got to be a limit to how much I love!
There is no way you could do this…yourself. this leads to the final implication.
- JESUS has loved us with NO limits SO THAT we can love without limits.
we must be real with ourselves to recognize that we have not loved or even liked Jesus as he ought to be loved and liked. we ignore him on the road of our lives soooo often yet, he still loves us. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45). There is NO boundary on who Jesus cares for. he even cares for us so he gives us the reason to have no boundary on who we care for.
if were honest, we also have taken advantage of Jesus and assume His help day after day. yet, Jesus keeps giving day after day. He even gave up His very life to love us. His blood is an eternal promise of His love for us if we ever doubt it. He did not put a limit to how much he gave of himself to us. there is no boundary on how much He cares for us, so we have His unlimited super power to have NO boundary on how much we care for others.
I’m not saying we are saved by doing good works but we are saved TO do good works (eph 2:8-10). 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
there is no way we could love like this without reminding ourselves constantly of How Jesus loves us, there’s no way we could hope to love like Him without remaining in Him, without clinging to Jesus daily (see “loving God” that precedes “loving neighbor” in verse 27a).
in Jesus we have the responsibility, but we also have the reason and the resources to love without boundaries. because that is how he loves us.