When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he answered,
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 22: 37-40 NKJV)
All the commands in scripture boil down to loving God and people. So why not just love and forget the rest of the Bible? The problem is, everyone has their own idea of what “love” is. (See All you need is love.) The scriptures not only command us to love, but tell us how to love God and people – with practical examples of what love looks like.
In Luke chapter ten, an expert on Jewish law who understood the importance of these two commands tried to justify his actions by asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus’ response was to give the story about the Good Samaritan. Take a moment to read the passage in your Bible, found in Luke 10: 25-37. (Or follow the hot link to read it online.)
The word “Samaritan” conjures up good feelings in us today. Organizations like Samaritan’s Purse are applauded for their good works. But the name did not have such pleasant connotations to the Jews.
The Samaritans were a group of people who had mixed with surrounding nations when Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. They had formed their own religion based on both the Jewish scriptures and the religions of other nations in the area.
The expert on Jewish law undoubtedly thought Samaritans were a group that were not to be considered neighbors and were unworthy of love.
But Jesus turned that thought on its head with the story of a Samaritan who dared show love to a Jew.
Racial and religious differences are not the only reasons people use to justify their lack of love for other people. The priest illustrates how religious obligations can get in the way of showing love to people in need. Priests were not allowed to touch a dead body. So when he saw the beaten man “half dead” beside the road, he let his religious duty get in the way of helping.
Sometimes we get so busy meeting our obligations to our church that we use them as an excuse not to get involved in the lives of people.
The Levite illustrates someone who is curious, but lacks compassion. When he comes across the injured man, he “came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” He is much like the “rubbernecks” who like to gawk as they drive by the scene of an accident but would never get involved.
The Samaritan, on the other hand, was not only willing to get involved; he was willing to spend money out of his own pocket to make sure the man was taken care of.
“So which of these three… was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” Jesus asks. It is the one who showed mercy and compassion.
May we “go and do likewise.”
More articles in this series:
All you need is love
Loving God with everything we have
Loving God with all: How Abraham loved God with all his heart
Loving God with all: How Abraham loved God with all his soul
Loving God with all: How Abraham loved God with all his mind
Loving God with all: How Abraham loved God with all his strength