34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Who is our neighbor? Recently, I have been reading “The Hole in our Gospel” by Richard Stearns. He talks for awhile about the two greatest commandments of our faith. This got my mind thinking on the topic of neighbors. Who is my neighbor? What does it mean to be a neighbor? It is interesting to me that immediately after loving God, comes loving your neighbor. One thing’s for sure; we’d better know to whom we are responsible for loving.
Of course, Jesus addresses this question with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten up and left on the side of the road; people walk by him and sure enough the person who ends up helping him is the one least expected. The Samaritan stopped and cared for the Jew. At the end of the story, Jesus asks:
36“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
What is this passage saying? That we choose our neighbors or that all people are our neighbors? Do we choose to act, or not act like a neighbor?
Here we have two people groups that hated one another. Throughout history there have always been comparisons to this story – two groups of people that are perceived as polar opposites. What do you think are some modern day comparisons? In our minds, choosing to love someone you hate or is completely different from you seems completely illogical. But, this is what Jesus calls us to do.
These passages point to an important truth. God wants us to love others, radically.
I live in Charleston, SC. I could hop on a plane, and be in rural Kenya in a matter of hours. I could pick up the phone and call there in seconds. In our modern day, not only are the people who inhabit the house next to mine my neighbors, but those who live a life of poverty in far off countries. God is constantly expanding my worldview. This is a big neighborhood.