Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Becoming a neighbor: Luke 10:36

In the story of the Good Samaritan, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jerico. Along the way, he was attacked by robbers and left for dead. While lying beside the road, both a priest and a Levite came by but refused to help. Finally, a Samaritan came by and helped the man, taking him to an inn and paying for his care. In telling this story, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” (Luke 10:36). The Greek word translated here as “proved to be” is an interesting word and has a wide range of meanings. It can also be translated “to have become.” We could retranslate Jesus’ question as, “Which one of the three has become a neighbor to the man?”

In asking this question, Jesus redefines for us who our neighbor is. His definition of neighbor is not static but dynamic. A neighbor is not simply someone we live close to but includes all we invite into our lives. The Samaritan did not know the man who was beaten by robbers. The man was not a neighbor in the normal sense of the word, but the Samaritan took pity on him and gave of his time and money to care for him. The Samaritan was willing to bring this man into the realm of his relationships and treated him like any other neighbor he might have. The important point here is that the Samaritan made himself a neighbor to one who was not formally his neighbor.

This scripture causes me to ask myself, “In expressing the love of God to others, do I only consider those close to me, only my neighbors, or am I willing to extend God’s love even to strangers in, to become a neighbor to those in need?” While we were still enemies of God, he came down and became our neighbor. He gave all he had to heal and care for us and to bring us into a relationship with himself. Ought we not do likewise to others in need?

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