On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
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.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29
“Who is my neighbor? Which ones do I have to love?” Possibly even, “Which ones deserve my love?” The expert in the correct interpretation of the law wanted to put some kind of boundaries around this amorphous love thing.
In reply Jesus said: “A man …” Luke 10:30
I think most of us have at least heard about the Parable of the Good Samaritan.i The story of a person who was beat up and left for dead in the road, and how two very religious types turned their heads and walked by on the other side of the road. But a person who in the Jewish culture of the time was considered unclean and an outcast – that person, not only stopped, but gave of his time and resources to take care of the wounded man.
The Jews of the time thought, “Samaritans were half-breeds who defiled the true religion. ”ii According to Got Questions, “The Samaritans received only the five books of Moses and rejected the writings of the prophets and all the Jewish traditions … [This probably really irked the expert in the law.] From these causes arose an irreconcilable difference between them, so that the Jews regarded the Samaritans as the worst of the human race (John 8:48) and had no dealings with them (John 4:9).”iii
I think it is amusing how Jesus chose a Samaritan to be the hero of the story. This person who rejects all the expert’s “correct” interpretation and sage wisdom is the one who gets it right. The Samaritan does not stop to figure out who deserves his love – he just loves. That is interesting in itself because, remember, Jesus was rejected in Samaria because he was going to Jerusalem, the “wrong” place to worship (Luke 9:51-56).
But Jesus did not reject the Samaritans. He shocked everybody by reaching out to them at Sychar – and to a woman at that! (John 4:4-42). Jesus totally ignored all the arguments on both sides about words and correctness and, ultimately, pride of being on the right side, and went straight for the heart.
Because the question is not who is my neighbor – who deserves my love – but how can I be a neighbor, how can I love.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:35-36
People are always trying to put boundaries around love, always trying to justify themselves “Surely, you don’t mean that person?” But love is meant to be given, to be done, to be lavished. Jesus showed us how. He set love free; he tore down the walls. There is no justifying and being RIGHT. There is no “who,” there is only “how and what.” “Love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus washed even Judas’ feet, showing us the “full extent of his love” (John 13:1 NIV).
The expert got it right the first time:
‘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.’
i If you have never read the whole parable, you can do so here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37&version=NIV
ii Alyssa Roat, Bible Study Tools https://www.biblestudytools.com/bible-study/topical-studies/the-samaritans-hope-from-the-history-of-a-hated-people.html
iii Samaritans, Got Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/Samaritans.html
Image, Old Barbed Wire, by arbyreed, https://flic.kr/p/9fTHVa