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Loving My Neighbor

What is the defining characteristic of a Christ-follower? I’ve said many times that “love” is the defining, characteristic of a committed Christ-follower. In fact, Jesus said this to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

But Jesus had taught that their love would be much broader than for just one another. In a powerful passage, including the parable of The Good Samaritan captured in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus teaches us some important lessons about love. In this text, we see love explained, love expressed and love embraced. 

Love Explained… (Luke 10:25-29)

An expert in the law decided to put Jesus to the test one day and in the process asked a really important question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” There was one word in his question that revealed his confused thinking. This expert believed he had to “do” something to earn his salvation; but salvation is not earned. It is graciously given to all who by faith receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. As Christ-followers, we don’t work for our salvation, but our work is inspired and fueled by our salvation.

Jesus answers the question with a question: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it.” The man answers very well, capturing the heart of OT theology, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; then he combines it with Leviticus 19:18: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

Give the man credit, he answered brilliantly. In fact, Jesus himself answered His critics the same way in Matthew 22, so it’s very possible that this man had heard Jesus say this and is repeating what he heard! So Jesus tells him that he's right; “Now go do it!” Yet the man is still trying to justify himself and asks another question: “Who’s my neighbor?” To answer that question, Jesus shares the parable of The Good Samaritan.  

Love Expressed… (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus told about a man, likely a Jew, who was brutally attacked on the steep, rugged, isolated road from Jerusalem to Jericho known as “The Way of Blood.” First, a priest, who was likely headed home from his rotation serving in the temple, came up on the brutalized man laying on the roadside. After doing a quick assessment as to whether to get involved or not, the priest decided to pass by on the other side. Later, another temple worker, a Levite, made the same decision. For whatever reason, both of these men decided they didn’t want to be inconvenienced or troubled to help this stranger. Or maybe they rationalized that someone was more or better equipped to help than they were. 

Jesus then threw the audience an unexpected curve when he said, “But a Samaritan…”. They would never have expected a Samaritan to be the hero in this story. Samaritans were despised by Jews. But as Gary Inrig writes in his excellent book on The Parables, Jesus chose his hero purposely, carefully, and shockingly. Yet it is not this man’s nationality that sets him apart; rather it is his three authentic expressions of love:

1) Compassion - 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  Luke 10:33

The Samaritan man doesn’t see anything the other two men didn’t see. But the difference is in what they felt. The Samaritan man felt compassion, pity. The typical animosity felt between Jew and Samaritan was gone. It is worth noting that the only other time this word (pity) is used in the Gospels is to describe Jesus’ feelings. He is the model of compassion!

2) Care - 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 himLuke 10:34

The Samaritan man’s compassion compelled him to do something, to act, to care for this man in need. After dressing the man’s wounds with whatever he has, he puts the man on his own donkey and transports him to where he can get more care. This took some courage too! Remember, this is a Samaritan man toting a badly injured Jewish man in Jewish territory. The optics weren’t ideal for him; yet he was willing to take the risk to help someone in need.

3) Commitment - 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.’ Luke 10:35

Not only did this Samaritan man take care of this brutalized Jewish man’s immediate needs, but he was willing to care for his future needs too! He met him right where he was, laying nearly lifeless on the side of the road, but he wasn't about to leave him there. All of this for an imperfect stranger with no expectation of ever getting any of his money back. This Samaritan man is truly expressing unexpected, unwarranted, unconditional love to a person in need. 

I wonder if you or I would love like that? Starting with compassion, prompting a real act of care, followed up by a commitment to do whatever we can to help with no expectations. 

Love Embraced… (Luke 10:36-37)

Interestingly, the expert in the law couldn’t bring himself to even utter the name Samaritan, but he had to give him credit for his mercy. Then Jesus compels this man and all in His audience, including you and me, to go and do the same! 

Our willingness to get involved with others is evidence of our love for them. Our willingness to meet them where they are, laying on the side of the road, desperately in need, whether it is physical or spiritual, is evidence of our love, not just for them, but for our God! Because He has modeled sacrificial love for us in giving His only Son that we may have eternal life, which brings us full circle to the expert’s question that prompted Jesus’ teaching: What must I do to inherit eternal life? 

God’s Word gives us that answer: The truth is there is really nothing you can do, but accept by faith what has already been done for you! Admit you’re a sinner in need of a Savior. Acknowledge that Jesus died on the cross to save you from that sin; turn away from that sin and toward God; live your life to honor Him and to love like Him! 

For much more, click here to listen to: The Parables - Part 4 - Loving My Neighbor


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