Over the past several months I have had a verse running through my head from time to time. It is the true foundation for our walk with God and how we relate to those around us. The basic principle of the Christian walk is Love. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and strength. And the next one is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.
I live in a community that is incredibly diverse and tends to be far more liberal than I desire. It is inhabited with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as those who choose a variety of sexual preferences. The city seems to be enamored with strip clubs, adult video stores, and sex shops throughout. There are street people begging on every interstate off ramp and one can not go far without being asked for some spare change, a cigarette, or something to eat.
As I ponder these verses I can't help but ask myself how I am doing when it comes to loving my neighbor. I live on a decent street in an alright neighborhood so loving my immediate neighbors isn't such a challenge. But, once I venture out beyond the borders of my comfort zone I encounter the "unlovely" people and my commitment to love my neighbor as myself is far more challenging.
This story in Luke is a reminder to me that my neighbor is not defined solely by the people in close proximity to my house. It is anyone I come into contact with or who crosses my path. The lawyer asks Jesus in verse 29, "who is my neighbor?" His motive behind this question was to justify his own actions by finding himself in accordance to this command of "love your neighbor as yourself." He is a good man with elevated status in the community so loving those who are his friends and neighbors would be quite simple. But Jesus shows him the true meaning of what the scriptures are telling us.
To love those who are less fortunate than we are takes guts. It also requires humility and actions that are intentional. We need to purposefully act on our love rather than walk on the other side of the street and try to avoid any contact with those in our community that we find difficult to love. The Samaritan's first response was to have compassion. This is generally not my first response when beggars walk up to me or I see someone downtown lying on the street. My first response is more like the priest or the Levite. If I walk on the other side of the street maybe then I won't need to acknowledge that this person even exists.
Once the Samaritan bound up the injured mans wounds he took him to an inn and cared for him. When it was time for the Samaritan to leave, he left money with the innkeeper to allow the injured man to be cared for until he could return to check on him. The Samaritan was merciful. He is the example of what Christ means when He tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Luk 10:25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Luk 10:26 He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" Luk 10:27 And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." Luk 10:28 And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." Luk 10:29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Luk 10:30 Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Luk 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Luk 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. Luk 10:33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. Luk 10:34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luk 10:35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Luk 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" Luk 10:37 He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (esv)
Lord, help me to be like the good Samaritan. I know that there are people around me daily that I could show your love to but I am too busy, too prideful, or just too lazy to reach out. Forgive me for not taking my time and resources and using them effectively for those who are less fortunate than myself. You are the God of Love and you call me to show that love to others. Please give me an opportunity to do that today. In Jesus precious name, Amen.