16 May 2011

Jesus Wants Us to Be a Neighbour

Rembrandt- "The Good Samaritan"
Luke 10:25-37

Love is not just a feeling.  Infatuation, affection and compassion are feelings.  Love is not just a feeling.  How do I know this?  How does any Christian know anything?  Jesus teaches us.

First, notice the question and Jesus' answer.  The law expert asks how to inherit eternal life.  There is a thought by many modern theologians that the afterlife is a Christian invention brought in to motivate followers to obey.  But, here we see a Jewish scholar ask about the afterlife.

Jesus answering the question about eternal life, turns the expert in the law's attention to...the law.  In the era of grace we are living, too many times we see the law in a negative light.  We sometimes talk and act as though the law is oppressive.  But, it's only oppressive in that it shows us where we fall short.  The law is actually God graciously telling us how to truly live the life He has created for us.

So what is the answer to the lawyers question?  What does the law say?  Love God.  Love neighbour.  "Do this and you will live." 
"It is not good that man lives alone."  God is in relationship as the Father, Son, and Spirit. He created a life made for relationships.  Do you want to live?  Learn how to love.  Is that oppressive?  Is that a mean God?  Is it too much?

Why do we fail at this seemingly simple, good directive?  The lawyer illustrates why.  Because, in our fallen state, we always find a reason not to love.  "And who is my neighbour?"  In other words, who does God expect me to love?

It's easy to love those we know.  It's easy to love those we live near, work with and celebrate with.  It's easy to help people who will help us.  The entire free-market economy is built on that concept.

But in answering the lawyer's question of who is my neighbour, Jesus uses illustrations that a child can understand.  Again, it's important to understand that following Christ is not about being smart enough or popular enough.  The only thing we need to follow Christ is the will.  Do we have enough will, when we are being convinced by the world, by our flesh, by evil that we are living foolishly, to keep following Christ?

He uses the examples of a priest and a priest's assistant.  These would have been regarded as the righteous of Israel.  Yet, Jesus asks people to look past their position and look at their action.  They see the man in need and they both ignore and disregard the need.  Then, Jesus uses the example of a Samaritan.  As we have already read, Samaritans were despised by the Jews.  Jews didn't even talk to Samaritans, let alone help them with anything.  Samaritans were seen as compromisers and betrayers of God's holy nation.

Yet, Jesus asks people to look past where he is from and who his family is and look at his actions.  Clearly, he loves the stranger in need.  How?  He feels compassion for the stranger.  He takes care of the immediate need by cleaning and dressing the wounds.  He uses his own transport to transport the stranger in need of a place to recover.  He uses his own resources to ensure the stranger will be able to have the time he needs in the inn to recover.  He tells the innkeeper that he will return to ensure the stranger no longer needs his help.

Then, Jesus asks a question in a way that turns the lawyer's question on it's head.  The question we need to ask is not "who is my neighbour", but "who will I be a neighbour to"?  As Christians, it is not proper to judge who has been a neighbour to us.  That is irrelevant.  As Christians, we must realise that all people, regardless, are valuable because they are God's image-bearers.  God has given them life.  Therefore, they are valuable.

How do we do this?  How do we go against everything we think is logical?  "With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."

Again, Jesus asks no more than what he has done himself.  To paraphrase Paul, "While we were still sinners, Christ was a neighbour to us."  He loved the unlovable.  He loved his enemies.

Go and do likewise.


  1. Sheer brilliance--thanks for highlighting the razor-sharp perception of Jesus into the question behind the question of the lawmaker. We all need to re-jig our attitudes about our neighbour, hey!

    Cheers, Mark