DVThe Good NeighborLuke 10:25-37But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" —Luke 10:29Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." How does this knowledge shape how you love others?The parable in Luke 10 is Jesus' response to the question put forth by the expert of the law. Jesus tells of a man who is robbed on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Stripped, beaten and left "half dead," he is passed by two people before the third has mercy on him and saves his life. The man has no name, nor is he given a title. But Jesus does identify the three passersby: a priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The first two see the man and promptly pass to the other side of the road, distancing themselves as far as possible from the half-dead man. According to Mosaic Law, the priests cannot touch a corpse lest they defile themselves (Lev 21:1-3). The priest and the Levite in Jesus' parable leave nothing to chance. To avoid any such defilement, they do not bother to determine the whether the man is alive or dead. Nor are they willing to delay their own journey by signaling for help. Rather it is a Samaritan—of a people the Jews viewed as half-breeds—who stops, takes a detour, gives up his donkey and two-days' wages for the sake of the poor man's life.
Who is my neighbor, whom I should love as myself? To whom is the Samaritan a "neighbor"? He is a man "going down from Jerusalem to Jericho"—traveling away from the holy city of God. He is a man waylaid in the desert, stripped of his possessions, beaten down, left senseless. He is an unlikely neighbor, really—not one that the expert of the law is, or we today, are likely to encounter on a daily basis. Unless we take another look, and see how the man leaving Jerusalem is a figure for anyone who is distanced from the temple of God and His salvation. We encounter him when we encounter anyone who is beaten down by the forces of the world, dispossessed, senseless of right and wrong or truth and falsehood, and spiritually half dead. He is the brother who is straying from the path of righteousness, or the friend or acquaintance still living in sin.
Instinct often tells us to stand aside or apart, and avoid trouble. We are often inclined to leave them be and go along our own way, rather than to associate with any sinner. But Jesus told the expert, and tells us, to "Go and do likewise," as the Samaritan did. He tells us to lead our neighbor to be cleansed, to lift him up, and be willing to carry his burden; He tells us to take him into our care, to give of ourselves in order to save his life.
Jesus said, "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Mt 16:14). The priest and the Levite, desiring to preserve their sanctity, failed to fulfill God's commandment of love. To love your neighbor is to love the lost sheep of God, and to do all that is in your power to bring them back to the fold. For Jesus said, "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent" (Lk 15:14).