Just Who Is My Neighbor?

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

Once again, Jesus reminds us that mercy wins! The prophet Micah’s words come to mind:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8)

“The best exercise for strengthening the heart is reaching down and lifting people up.” -Ernest Blevins

Sounds easy, living it out is a bit more difficult. Our “self” just has a way of getting in the way! Earlier Jesus had said, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and the teacher of the Law had asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered that question by telling him the Parable of the Good Samaritan which precedes our verses for today.

In the parable, a man is heading from Jerusalem to Jericho–a trek of about 17 miles descending 3,000 feet. It was a dangerous, steep, winding way oftentimes laden with robbers. Jesus described how this man fell into the hands of this rabble. They beat him, stripped him of his clothes, and left him half dead. A priest and a Levite (both leaders in the Jewish community) passed by this half dead man, actually crossing over to the other side of the road, ignoring the blaring need before them. Then Jesus tells us a Samaritan comes along, taking pity on the man. This is particularly interesting in light of the fact that the Samaritans were scorned and looked down upon by the Jews because of their mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry. This merciful Samaritan bandaged the half dead man’s wounds, poured on his own oil and wine, placed the man on his own donkey, and took him to an inn to care for him out of his own means. The next day, the Samaritan went the extra mile by telling the innkeeper to tend to this man’s needs and that he would reimburse him for any expenses incurred. At this point in the story, Jesus poses the question, “Which one of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?” Jesus certainly has a way of getting straight to the heart of the matter!

Similar to the priest and the Levite, we can put our blinders on to the needs of those who our care. We walk on the other side of the road either pretending the problem is not there or being so consumed with our own lives and problems that we don’t even notice the hurt of others. Perhaps we have no idea how to help. But the Samaritan simply did what he could!

“We are to do acts of kindness to those that least of all deserve it.” -William Law

As I read this story I am struck by the principle that loving our neighbor will probably cost us. It will cost time … and money … and comfort! But, when we come to the aid of others, it forces us to take our minds off ourselves. The beauty of this is that through our helping others, we are elevated and helped! Reaching out to the needs of others lifts us up.

Take It to Heart

A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

“Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, and learning.”
-Frederick Faber

This can be through our material possessions including our money, our time, or our talents.

“Every act of compassion done by anyone … is done by Christ working in him.” (Julian of Norwich)

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