Jesus was the most brilliant storyteller the world has ever known. One of His best known stories is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36). An attorney asked Jesus, “What should I do to inherit eternal life?” Not only did the lawyer ask a good question, he asked the right person. The lawyer knew he was commanded to love the Lord God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength and with all his mind, and his neighbor as himself. Then he asked Jesus, “But who is my neighbor?”
In answer to that question Jesus told the story of a man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho who was robbed, beaten up, and left half dead. Obviously the man needed urgent medical attention. It happened that a priest was going down that road and saw the man lying half dead. But surprisingly the priest “passed by on the other side.” Similarly another religious leader came to the same spot, saw the man lying there, but also passed by on the other side. We would have expected one of these religious leaders to care for this man, but it seems that they go out of their way to avoid the man. They show no compassion or mercy, and practice a non-involvement policy thinking the problem was not theirs. They had the law in their heads, but love was not in their hearts. Clearly they were not loving their neighbor as themselves.
However, a Samaritan came to where the man was, had compassion, took care of his needs, and brought him to place where he was to be cared for. The Samaritan paid for his medical care and stay, and said that if more money was needed he would also pay for that! Here was a display of extraordinary love and compassion. The Samaritan doesn’t do the minimum but the maximum. The surprising aspect about the story is that the man who took care of the person who was robbed was the least likely of people. Being a Samaritan he was regarded as unclean, inferior, and despised. The lawyer then understood that it was the one who showed mercy who proved to be a neighbor. This is an example to follow.
There are many broken, poor, lonely, and sad people around us. Some of them are very different from us: a different color of skin or ethnicity, a different religion, a different lifestyle. But all are in need of the love of Jesus displayed through us. What are you to do?
Be their neighbor. Reach out to them. Don’t be so locked into your little world and circle of friends that you fail to see needy people. Don’t be so self-focused that you are blind to the problems and difficulties of others. Loving your neighbor often requires time and sacrifice. In the parable the lawyer knew the answers, but perhaps was failing to help others. Be a neighbor to someone in need.
God who is all loving has shown his love for us by sending Jesus Christ to be our Savior. We are to receive the love of God in Jesus Christ, and then to reflect that love to others. Martin Luther called Christians to be “Christ to your neighbor.” That is we are to so mirror the love of Christ to others so that others see something of Christ in us.
Open your heart to God’s love. Then with this supernatural love in your heart reach out to that lonely neighbor, that difficult person at work, that family member who does not like you, that person from a different culture, that awkward person you know. Be their neighbor. Our world desperately needs such love: the love of Jesus reaching out to others.