A Big Question Today is “What is Meant By Command to “Love Your Neighbor?”
More often, the call to “love” today implies some form of acceptance or even avoiding any sense of judgement. This is isn’t how loving your neighbor is thought of biblically or practically.
The Good Samaritan
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25–37 NLT-SE)
If we were to apply the contemporary understanding of “love as acceptance” and even non-interference, then the first two who pass the man by might best fit that description, because they leave the man on his own; no judgment there!
The Samaritan, however, had to use judgement in order to see what all the others ignored;
He saw that the beaten man was in trouble and decided to help him.
Rather than just walking by, the Samaritan saw that the path the man was on was a deadly one. In fact, biblical historians have suggested that in Jesus’ time, the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a notoriously to be a dangerous path known as “The Red” or “Bloody Way.” It was also a very a very well-traveled road as it connected two important cities.
One way to imagine this scene is that despite its established reputation for being a dangerous path, the traveler was just doing what many people would do in traveling in it. So there’s no real surprize then when the man gets in trouble and is over-taken by bandits who take him for all he’s got and beat him until he’s half-dead (or half-alive, if you’re an optimist!).
This is how it is in the world today. We might all know someone who’s walking on a very popular but dangerous path and that they are likely, if they continue, to experience hard times. Some of the more common dangerous paths are:
- Easy sexual relationships
- The party life (drugs and alcohol)
- The high life—luxury on credit
We have friends walking down these dangerous paths and we sort of walk by them, not wanting to step in and feel like we’re judging until it happens and they are beaten up and left for dead. Easy relationships lead to broken hearts that feel like death over and over again. The party life steals all zeal, energy and ambition. The high life of impressive toys and cars eventually steals everything, even our future.
Who is going to be like a neighbor to these friends and what does that look like?
Loving Your Neighbor means recognizing that someone you see is on a dangerous path and being willing to pick them up and carry them to a place where they can be cared for and find healing.
I hope that Restoration is like that hostel that the Samaritan brings the beaten man into. But the real “good Samaritan” is Jesus who, while we were still sinners, died for us—making full payment for our restoration in the hands of a loving God.
So who do you know that’s on a dangerous path? Ask the Lord to give you eyes to see the broken and the beaten around you. And to show you what would be like to love them as your neighbor…