Your Enemy/Neighbor

Luke 10:25-37 (NIV)

The Parable of the Good Samaritan
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. 32 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 parable of the good Samaritan is quite familiar to Christians.  The phrase, “good Samaritan” is well-known to many who are not believers.  We associate that phrase with someone who does a kind deed for a stranger.  That’s not what Jesus had in mind.  True, the Samaritan in His story did not know the individual he helped.  They were strangers.  But they were more than strangers.  They were enemies.
The expert in the law (what we would consider to be a lawyer) was testing Jesus.  He wanted to know Jesus’ thoughts on what it takes to go to Heaven.  Jesus turns the tables on him and asks him for his opinion first.  The lawyer answers with a very good answer from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus:

‘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.’

– Luke 10:27 (NIV)
Jesus commends him on his correct answer.  Then the lawyer wants to impress Jesus by asking a profound question:

And who is my neighbor? – Luke 10:29 (NIV)

Jesus, as He often did, tells him a story that we know as the parable of the good Samaritan.  We may think of this parable as a nice little story about two men who were unwilling to help a man in need and one kindly Samaritan who helped the beaten and battered man.  That is far from what was actually going on in Jesus’ day.  The priest goes by and then the Levite.  They are on their way from Jerusalem to Jericho.  They both served in the temple.  The priests were considered the most holy men of their day.  Levites were next to them in holiness since they also served in the temple.
Then the Samaritan happens to pass by.  One commentator said that Jews and Samaritans “despised” each other.  These guys are enemies.  We’re talking Packers’ fans and Bears’ fans times 10!  They hated each other!  The Samaritan, despite his peoples’ hatred of Jews, has compassion on the half dead man.  He goes above and beyond what any human being would do for someone else.  This despised Samaritan becomes the hero of the story!  What do you think was going on in the minds and hearts of those who were hearing this story?  Anger!  Blood boiling!  Teeth clenched!  Jesus asks the lawyer:

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? – Luke 10:36 (NIV)

The lawyer can’t even bring himself to say the word, “Samaritan.”  He says:

The one who had mercy on him. – Luke 10:37a (NIV)

Then Jesus frosts the cake with, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37b, NIV).  Jesus tells this Jewish lawyer, “Be like the Samaritan.”  OH!  How it must have burned his ears to hear such a thing!
So what about you?  Who is your neighbor?  Who needs you to be the conduit of God’s love and mercy today?  It’s probably the person you either least expect or least want to show it to.  That’s the person Jesus wants you to love today.
PRAYER:  Lord Jesus, help me to love the people I don’t want to love today.  In Your name, amen.

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