“Who is my neighbor?” The lawyer’s second test question to Jesus Christ. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, he experienced tests and trials to assess his validity as the Messiah. One of the ways Jesus was tested was on his knowledge about the Judaic laws and practices. Jesus Christ demonstrated great wisdom and power by not only passing the tests but also unveiled the hidden mysteries of the law which astounded the people. The outcome of the tests provided knowledge and in-depth revelation in understanding God’s will and word. By God’s grace we also draw wisdom, guidance, and truth from the outcomes of these tests for our lives as Christians today.
Beloved in Christ, let us delve into one of the most well-known responses our Lord Jesus Christ gave to the lawyer according to the gospel of Luke when he was asked: “Who is your neighbor?”.
The response our Lord simply responded by by sharing the story about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).
In summary, a Samaritan showed compassion and love to a wounded Jew whereas other two devout Jews, priest, and Levite respectively who first encountered their fellow Jew who was wounded passed by him without paying any attention and care for him. Jesus ended the story by asking the expert of the law “who do you think was a neighbor to the wounded man?” The expert of the law replied the one who showed mercy, and this happened was the non-Jew.
Background about “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.”
According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary and other Judaic sources, a neighbor in the Old Testament refers to a friend, close associate, or the person who is close by or share a friendship connection with. Simply put another Jew.
As referenced in the following verses:
Leviticus 19:18, – 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Deuteronomy 5:20-21 – ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’
In the Judaic tradition, neighbor means a fellow Jew. It meant love for one another of the same beliefs and identity as a Jew. The lawyer knew from his understanding that neighbor meant another Jew and loving someone like himself was not a difficult task,. Here is the catch, Jesus presents a new definition for neighbor which the people now had to grapple with.
Radical Love “Love Your Neighbor.”
Here in the story about the good Samaritan, Jesus presents a new definition of neighbor. A neighbor has always meant to the Jews another Jew. Now Jesus extends the definition of neighbor to include strangers. Strangers meaning non-Jews are to be considered neighbors. That is whatever it meant to love someone like yourself, do it also to others who are not like you.
In some way, we also have our own limited blinded definition of neighbor. We commonly refer to people who live within our vicinity as neighbors. They are the people we are familiar with and even share our lives with. It becomes easy to love and do good to people who seem to be like us.
Beloved in Christ, Jesus calls us to radical love for all people. All people in this world are our neighbors. Everyone created by God is our neighbor, God gave Jesus Christ for the World.
We place barriers to prevent encountering others who are not like us, we hold on to stereotypes and notions to have a reason to avoid others and so many things we do as believers in Christ. Please, I plead with you all, let us open our hearts to allow the Spirit of God to share the love of God abroad in our hearts to love others as God loves them.
We are called to love our neighbors (all people). We love them because God loves them. We love them to reveal Jesus Christ who gave His life to them. We love to demonstrate the love of Christ that brings salvation, hope, joy, deliverance, healing, restoration, truth, life in their lives. We love them to magnify Christ. Our call to love should always reveal Christ Jesus.
It is my prayer that God will demolish all barriers that we have created to prevent us from sharing the love of God with all people. It is the Father’s desire that all will repent and come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. May the Spirit of God continues to empower and strengthen us to avail ourselves to vessels of God’s love to reach all people.
Stay blessed and always remember that Jesus Christ loves you so dearly for He died on the cross of Calvary for you.