“The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?'” – Luke 10:29
We all know the story that comes next. The story of the Samaritan man who rescued a poor beaten Israelite from certain death on the roadside. But let’s put this whole thing in cultural perspective real quick.
Who walks by this man? First, a priest walks by. This guy was constantly in the presence of God. Some translations have Jesus portray this man as a Pharisee. But we get the point here that this man was extremely religious. Someone who spent his time in the Law, reading and praying and ministering before God. And his response to the half-dead bleeding man on the side of the road? He goes around the man, crossing to the OTHER SIDE of the road.
Who comes next? A Levite! Another religious person! This guy really knows the Law of God! He knows it is necessary and commanded to take care of those who are wounded and sick and injured and help them out, especially if they are an Israelite. And what does he do? He ALSO crosses to the other side of the road!
So, we have two deeply religious people, who know the Law of God, who completely ignore it because they feel they are ABOVE the Law (this was a common belief for the religious elite of that time).
Finally, a Samaritan, someone who has no dealings with Jews (because Samaritans are half-Jew, half-Gentile, and the Jews considered them unclean), comes by. What does he do? He breaks the cultural norm of avoidance, patches the man up, puts him on his own donkey and takes him to an inn to take care of him, even pays the innkeeper, telling him to get the man whatever he needs and promises to pay for any extra the innkeeper might spend.
This man was truly a neighbor!
What about us today? Are we breaking cultural norms to help those who are hurting? Are we following what Jesus refers to as the second greatest (meaning most important, meaning should really be paid attention to and followed) commandment?
Our neighbors are not just the people we live next to or in the same community with. Our neighbors are not just the people in our church or the people we work and serve with.
Our neighbors are the Muslim family struggling to be accepted. Our neighbors are the war vets suffering from PTSD, psychosis, limb loss and other physical and psychological ailments. Our neighbors are the clinically insane. Our neighbors are the gay community, looking for love in a world that screams against them. Our neighbors are the unwed mothers who had a child out of wedlock. Our neighbors are the divorced, the abused, the lost, the homeless. Our neighbors are those we have marginalized and ignored. Our neighbors are the prostitutes at truck stops and street corners. Our neighbors are the prisoners. Our neighbors are the forgotten ones, the marginalized, the ignored.
Are we loving them the way we love ourselves?
“‘…love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.'” – Leviticus 19:18
This is what the Sovereign LORD says.