Monday, February 5, 2018

And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:39 NKJV).

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 NKJV).

This event is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Only in Luke is the question asked, “Who is my neighbor?”  Good question.  Who is?  Some believe it is the person who lives on either side of them.  For some it is the neighbor they know and speak to.  People vary in their belief on who that neighbor is.  Beliefs also alternate as to the depth that relationship must be with that person.

What does Jesus mean?  Who is my neighbor and how deep must my love for that neighbor be?  Jesus did follow loving God with loving our neighbor, didn’t he?  There are more poor people in this world than there are middle or rich class citizens.  Are the poor not our neighbor?  Doesn’t that mean if we have an extra bedroom and bath that we are to open our home to a family of six or eight to house, feed, educate, provide medical care, and transportation because that is what Jesus meant?  Some believe it is the “Christian thing to do” if the US government does it, not us!  If we are not willing to share our home, automobile, and bank account, aren’t we being anti-neighborly?  If we aren’t neighborly, do we really love God?  Some fret over that thought!

Since Luke is the only one that includes the lawyer’s question, don’t we need to see Jesus’ answer!   A man is robbed and beaten.  A priest does not render assistance.  A Levite doesn’t.  But, a hated Samaritan does (Luke 10:34).  He applies first aid, takes the man to the nearest inn and pays his expenses.  Jesus’ question to the lawyer was, “Which of these three . . . was neighbor to him?”  The lawyer’s reply was, “He who showed mercy.”  Jesus’ response was, “Go and do likewise.”  What does this passage teach?  What does it not teach?  If assumption invades the discussion, is it valid?  You may walk away with one idea and someone else another, and both may be good.  May one bind his idea upon the other?  Would that be neighborly?

If two individuals kicked in your front door armed with baseball bats, shouldn’t you be a good neighbor and put them up in the nearest motel or in the extra bedroom?  If someone knocks on your door and demands you give him three thousand dollars each month to house and feed his family of five, shouldn’t you show mercy and comply?  Wouldn’t that be neighborly?  If you are rushing a sick member of your family to the hospital in an emergency, should you stop and fix someone’s flat that you see on the side of the road?  If you don’t, haven’t you failed to love that neighbor who needs your help?  If that is what Jesus is saying, why didn’t he continue to feed the four and five thousand?  When they left Jesus, wasn’t it because he was more talk than action and not being neighborly by showing mercy in continuing to fill their stomachs?

In none of the three accounts did the Samaritan decide to take the wounded man home to regain his health.  Would the inn keeper’s care be as efficient as the man’s family would have been?  Wouldn’t that have been more neighborly?  If the beaten and robbed man was a Jew, would he have wanted a despised Samaritan to stop and help him?   If it had been the Samaritan who was robbed and beaten, would that or any Jew have stopped and done the neighborly thing?  All those questions may or may not be included in Jesus’ point to that lawyer.

What does it mean to show mercy?  Here again we may provide an answer that doesn’t fit Jesus’ point.  Sometimes Christians disagree and allow that difference to drive a wedge between their fellowship.  They refuse to worship with one another in the same building.  Reconciliation depends upon the other giving in.  No mercy is extended.  No love is shown.  Neither is neighborly!  Each considers the other as a despised Samaritan!

Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).