Who’s your neighbour?
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29 (NIV)
‘Who’s my neighbour?’ is a very strange question to ask yourself, unless you’re a Christian. And even then, it’s usually asked from a ‘get out of jail’ perspective. In other words, ‘Ew, do I really have to love them?!’ The expert in the law who questioned Jesus (v. 29) was no different. As the Message version of this verse puts it, he was ‘looking for a loophole’, and in Jesus, he thought he had found someone who would provide it.
But instead of making it easier for him, Jesus makes it harder. He tells him a parable: the story of the Good Samaritan. Then, like every good teacher, Jesus answers the expert’s question with another question: “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (v. 36).
The lawyer replies, “The one who had mercy on him” (v. 37), his hatred of Samaritans barely concealed by his refusal to give the man’s ethnicity a name check. Yet his answer expands his definition of neighbour by a considerable margin.
Little does he know that Jesus had already redefined the concept of neighbour beyond all expectations. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44).
So who is my neighbour? Everyone: people of all ethnicities, nationalities, and creeds, but more than that, the unloveable, and more than that, your enemies – how hard is that?
Who can love their enemy? It doesn’t seem humanly possible! That’s correct, it isn’t. But with God, through Jesus Christ, all things are possible.
Almighty Father, through the gift of Jesus Christ you have enabled us to love others as you love them. That means everyone, even our enemies. Father, we believe; strengthen our unbelief. Through Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.
Study by Peter Mill
About the writer:
Peter Mill is an Elder and a member of the National Ministry Team of Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland, and a Pastoral Worker for GCI in Scotland and Ireland.
Gilmerton New Church
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