The call to love our neighbor can often be a struggle. Let's face it; some people are easier to love than others. As a result, we often strive to ensure our neighbors look and think a lot like us. It may not be a conscious effort. After all, it's only "natural" to avoid relationships with those who are more challenging to be around. 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is so familiar that even my autocorrect knows it! (It automatically capitalized the text.) I want us to back up a bit and look at what spurred Jesus to tell this parable. In Luke 10.25–29 a lawyer approaches Jesus to ask what must be done in order to inherit eternal life. Read the exchange: 

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

That's the question, isn't it? Who is my neighbor? It seems as though the lawyer knew he was failing to keep this critical second half of the law, and sought to justify himself. But Jesus was not there to assure the lawyer his inconsistency was okay. Prejudice, partiality, or any diminishment of others stands in stark contrast to what it means to love one's neighbor.  

Jesus drives home this point by making a Samaritan the hero of this parable. Why a Samaritan? The hatred and animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans was legendary. To have a priest (who performs the temple sacrifices) and a Levite (who serves in the temple) both fail to come to the aid of this fallen traveler was a travesty. Then to have a Samaritan do that which was right shone a glaring spotlight on the failure of these "righteous" Jews. 

The answer to the lawyer's question "who is my neighbor" is a simple one. Everyone. We are to love those who cross our path regardless of their political ideation, religious affiliation, sexual identification, or racial differentiation. All humankind has been created in the image of God. Every man, woman, and child are our neighbors. 

Each one of us needs to take an honest assessment of our hearts toward others. Do we make assumptions about another based on the color of their skin, the way they dress, or the way they speak? Do we speak ill of those around us when they aren't there to defend themselves? Do we turn a blind eye to the needs of others because sacrificial love is just too hard? 

May God give each of us the strength to love our neighbor as ourselves and not love ourselves at the expense of our neighbor. 
Additional Reading: 
Psalm 95. This Psalm of praise turns its attention to how we relate with others. In verse 8 those city names have meaning. Meribah means quarrelsome, and Massah refers to test or trial. How does this psalm address ideas of prejudice and loving one's neighbor? 

Luke 17.11–19. What can we learn from the account of Jesus healing the 10 lepers? Considering the Jewish view of the Samaritan, what might be the point of this story? 

John 4.5–42 Why were the disciples astonished to see Jesus speaking with this woman? What can we learn about prejudice and partiality from this account?


*Artwork: The Good Samaritan, 1890 by Vincent van Gogh

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