Just Being Neighborly

An expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?”

He answered:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.

“You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.”

But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus took up the question and said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him up, and fled, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.’

“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:25–37)

Jesus made religious people uncomfortable. A Bible scholar asked Jesus how to gain eternal life. Jesus told him the two commandments: “love God” and “love your neighbor.” But there were a lot of people the scholar didn’t love and a lot of people the man believed didn’t deserve to be loved. He wanted a definition for neighbor that would let him keep his hate. Jesus told him a story that let him know that wasn’t possible.

Today, Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan doesn’t make us as uncomfortable as it did that ancient Bible scholar. After all, what’s a Samaritan? Samaritans were the result of marriages between Jews and the pagan idolaters who had moved into Palestine during the period of the Babylonian captivity. They were excluded from the Jewish temple and were despised as irredeemable sinners.
If Jesus were asked the same question today, perhaps his response might be to tell the story of how a preacher and a deacon ignored the victim in the gutter, in contrast to the homosexual who helped him.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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