But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29
A man had come to Jesus and asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life. He was an “expert in the law”, so he was pretty sure that he was already going above and beyond. Certainly he had checked all the boxes and would be able to glow with assurance when Jesus answered him. When Jesus responded to him by asking him what he thought the right answer was, he proudly proclaimed that it was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Jesus even acknowledged that he was right! “Do this and you will live.”
Just to be sure that he had it covered, he asked Jesus to be more specific. Who exactly was his “neighbor”? I have a feeling that as he puffed up his chest at the fact that he had gotten the answer right, he felt this little tug in his spirit asking him if he was sure he was really living this out. He loved his family. He loved all his friends down at the temple. He even loved the other Jews that lived around him. He had it covered… right? But then Jesus answered him with a parable that made it clear that his neighbor included even those that were different than him. That the love of God was to be extended to the outcasts of society and that even the people that may generally be seen as unlovable should be shown the love of God. (The Parable of the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:30-37)
No doubt this man left without feeling justified as he had hoped. I’m guessing that when he walked away from Jesus after hearing the parable, he discovered that loving his neighbor was a much bigger task than he had thought it was. Chances are that this encounter with Jesus changed the way he saw everyone that he came in contact with. We can learn a lot from this parable, too. If we allow the Holy Spirit to show us the people around us through Jesus’ eyes and if we set out to show them the love of Jesus, then the act of loving our neighbor will have a much bigger impact on the world.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. – 1 John 4:7