By Charlie Ridenour, Senior Pastor, Crossroads Bible Church
One of the many teachings of Jesus that stands out to me is the teaching on the Good Samaritan.
If you’re not familiar, an expert in the law – a professional religious guy of the time – asks Jesus how to find eternal life. Jesus responds by asking what the law said, and the man replied – love God with all you’ve got and love your neighbor with the same passion that you love you (my paraphrase). Jesus says – “Do this and you will live.”
Then, the man asks what everyone was thinking – define neighbor. I need to know who I’m supposed to love to get what I want, and who I don’t have to love along the way. He wants to know who is not worthy of loving.
So Jesus tells a story – a Jewish man was traveling and as he was walking robbers beat him up and left him for dead on the side of the road. Two professional religious people (from his own country) didn’t stop. They actually walked across the street and passed on the other side of the road. Then there was a Samaritan man. For context, Samaritans and Jews didn’t play well together. They hated each other for generations. It’s a long story, but there was no love lost – to say the least.
So in Jesus’ story, the Samaritan is actually the one who helps. He stops. He bandages the wounds. He pays for care. The Samaritan was the least like him and the least likely to help. He could have found any number of reasons to keep walking – but he didn’t.
In defining neighbor – in answering the question about who merits mercy and love – Jesus reminds us that it’s not just those like you, but those who are not. We are good at loving those that look like us, believe like us, vote like us (you get it).
But Jesus didn’t use those like us as an example of a neighbor.
Here’s two things I know, followed by two things I’ve found:
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors. He defines neighbor as someone unlike me.
Loving people unlike me usually is not natural, nor is it easy. It comes at a cost, and often times the cost is my comfort and my preference.
I’m thankful God’s requirement for his love wasn’t likeness. If I had to be like God for God to love me – I’d still be waiting. But he loved first. He loved when it was undeserved. He loved through my history of not loving him.
So, how do we live out the ways of eternal life? We love our neighbors – those that aren’t from our tribe, party, family, or worldview.
I’ll end as Jesus did in his story – simply by saying, “Go and do the same.”
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