But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?
Luke 10:25-37 reveals the well-known account of the man commonly called “The Good Samaritan.” In this passage, a lawyer temptingly questions Jesus, and as He frequently did, Jesus responds with another question. The dialogue continues between the two, and the clever lawyer answers with wisdom: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. Jesus, in turn, speaks: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. Then the lawyer replies: … and who is my neighbor?
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the teaching that follows this question. A certain man, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves. They robbed him, wounded him, and left him half dead. A certain priest came along and saw him, but passed by on the other side. Like the priest, a Levite came by, looked upon the injured man, and also passed by on the other side. But then came the Samaritan. He saw the wounded man, he had compassion on him, and he went to him. He tended his wounds, brought him to those who could care for him, and provided for his needs.
Jesus interrupts the account abruptly to answer the lawyer’s previous question, again with a question: Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among thieves? With insightful wisdom, he says: He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him: Go, and do thou likewise.
As we recall, Love thy neighbor as thyself is the command from the Lord Himself. And who is my neighbor? Those needing compassion and mercy.
The word neighbor literally means: those who are near. It is those whom we meet as we walk along life’s path to whom we should extend God’s mercy. God is a God of compassion – a God of mercy (Exodus 34:6-7, Psalm 145:8-9, Lamentations 3:22-23), and He calls His children to be a people of compassion – a people of mercy.
It is important to understand that those to whom this compassion and mercy must flow will often not deserve mercy. But be assured, we did not, and do not, deserve God’s mercy, yet freely it flows from the throne of grace.
Now, your human nature may resist this truth, but the Word of God is clear: But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as you would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? For sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).
There we find the full teaching. The reason that we are to be merciful is because our Father is merciful – even to the unthankful and to the evil. So, as we go down life’s path, we should be kind and merciful to each person that we meet. That is exactly what the Samaritan did, and we will find that as we do the same, we will be loving our neighbors as ourselves. Remember, the question is not whether they deserve mercy. The Father is kind even to the unthankful and the evil.
Who is your neighbor? Those who are near you, at any given moment in time.
How do you love them? By freely extending God’s mercy to them.
… and ye shall be the children of the Highest.
Now, let’s take this profound truth into your daily life.
Who is your neighbor? … Those who are near you, at any given moment in time.
How do you love them? … By being merciful as your Father is also merciful.
First, always first, your husband is your neighbor. He should be nearer to you than any other. Therefore, be kind and merciful to him!
Your children are also your neighbors. They are near you day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year. Be kind and merciful to them!
Others that you are around on a regular basis are also your neighbors, whomever they may be. Be kind and merciful to them!
And, just as a personal challenge, as someone crosses your path this week, mentally identify them as your neighbor and see what happens.
As you go through the grocery line and look upon the cashier, think: She is my neighbor!
As you are at dinner in a restaurant and your waiter approaches the table, think: He is my neighbor!
As you step on the elevator with a total stranger, think: She is my neighbor!
When the telephone rings, before you even answer, think: This is my neighbor!
When you hear of someone facing serious or difficult circumstances, think: She is my neighbor!
Then, be merciful as your Father also is merciful.
Then Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Lord, as we live the life that you have set before us, help us truly bring glory to Your name. Help us reflect You as You are. Thank You that You are such a merciful God. Thank You for the privilege of being called the children of the Highest. Your Word declares that Your mercies are new every morning. As we receive those mercies from You, help us daily extend Your mercy to those around us. By Your strength and for Your glory! Amen.
The above post was first printed in Dawning Light © 2003.