In Luke 10, How Did Jesus Respond To The Lawyer Who Asked Him, “And Who Is My Neighbor ”

The Lawyer’s Second Question

By Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching and Coordinator of the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology at the University of Southern California. It’s a typical lawyer’s blunder to ask a witness a question in open court without knowing what the response will be before the question is even asked. Even inexperienced litigators are aware of the dangers of doing so. If you ask an imprecise, open-ended question while the jury and judge are watching and listening in, who knows what the witness may say, what unexpected testimony, what troublesome evidence, or what undesirable information might seep into the trial with unforeseeable consequences?

According to Luke 9:51, Jesus has “determined to travel to Jerusalem” and is about to embark on the long trip to the city of his destiny, his death, and glory.

According to Luke, the lawyer’s intention was to put Jesus to the test, and in order to do so, he asks two questions.

The lawyer already knew the answer; in fact, the answer was already known by everyone in the audience.

As Jesus put it, “You’ve asked me a question, but you already know the answer,” he was saying in essence.

“Can you tell me what you read there?” “You should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself,” the lawyer says in response to his own question, which could have been foreseen all along.

The phrases he uses here are not ones he learned in law school, and they are not facts he learned at the Scribal Academy.

These are the words that children are taught to memorize because they represent the very core of the Torah – love of God and love of neighbor – and they represent the very essence of what it means to live a good life.

25 Just at that moment, a lawyer stepped up to question Jesus.

26He asked him, “Can you tell me what is written in the law?” “Can you tell me what you read there?” 26″You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and with all your mind,” he replied, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Afterwards, he told him, “You have given the correct response; now do this, and you will survive.” 29However, in an attempt to defend himself, he said of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 ‘A guy was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was robbed.

  • He was stripped and beaten before being carted away half-dead.’ Jesus responded.
  • 32As a result, when a Levite arrived at the location and spotted him, he chose to pass by on the opposite side.
  • His wounds were dressed after he had put oil and wine on them, and he went to him to do so.
  • 35 “Take care of him,” he told the innkeeper the next day, after withdrawing two denarii from his pocket and promising to reimburse the innkeeper for any additional expenditures when he returned.
  • So, why didn’t the lawyer just stop there and call it a night?
  • It was as though he had asked his inquiry, received the correct and expected response, placed it into the court record, and then made his point.

No, the lawyer wanted Jesus to publicly confess that, while he may have appeared a little out of the ordinary, even a little intense at times, whatever he was doing as he made his way from village to village, he was really just waving the flag of the slogan we’ve been repeating since we were children – love God and love your neighbor.

  • They, on the other hand, swiftly become accepted as everyday religious respectability.
  • There is no “I” in the word “Team.” This is something we’ve recited during Vacation Bible School shortly before the punch and cookies.
  • They are beaming with pride, announcing that they “love God so much” and that they also “love all people.” So, what exactly is there to be afraid of?
  • There is nothing to see here.
  • However, the attorney did not stop there.
  • What was the reason for his question?
  • I believe that the lawyer asked the second inquiry because he felt that Jesus had discreetly altered the ground beneath him, rather than because he was being followed.
  • Jesus, on the other hand, refused to answer the question, instead turning it around on the lawyer and saying “Can you tell me what you read in the Bible?” “Can you tell me what your response is?” The whole court is turned upside down in a single breath-taking motion.
  • The lawyer is no longer the solicitor who is prosecuting the case; instead, he is the accused who is defending his or her own righteousness.

As Luke puts it, he wanted to “justify himself.” And so he asks the one question he believes will do just that: “Who is my neighbor?” He thought he knew what Jesus would answer, and he assumed that the response would shine a light on his respectability, would show him for what he was, a man on the right side of things.

  • In fact, the chances are good that he would not risk this public test of self-justification if his life were not honorable and virtuous.
  • He probably expected Jesus to say something like, “You know what the Scriptures teach.
  • I show compassion to all of the above.” On the chessboard of “love of God and love of neighbor” as understood in his setting, he was no doubt well-positioned.
  • He did not congratulate the lawyer as a man of good standing.
  • He did so by telling a story, a parable.

Because this “certain man,” as he is called in the King James Version, is generic and everybody had traveled that Jericho road from time to time, Jesus was, in effect, saying to the lawyer, “Imagine that you were heading down the old road from Jerusalem to Jericho and then a terrible thing happened to you.

  • No longer in the stance of righteousness, he is now in the posture of dire need.
  • But that seems to me to be a near miss.
  • The lawyer depended upon the concepts “love God” and “love neighbor” to remain fixed and stable, a system of religious justification, and, again like most of us, he had found a sweet spot in that religious system that allowed him to be satisfied with himself and his life.
  • But Jesus proclaims a kingdom on the move.
  • He is on the move toward the cross and toward a lost humanity.
  • In Jesus, the system is not standing still.
  • And that is why Jesus throws the lawyer into the ditch beside the Jericho road.

He is showing that this lawyer, who thought he had a righteous place to stand, has nowhere to stand in his own strength but is in fact, like all the rest of us, lying face down and naked by the highway.

Jesus undermines the lawyer’s standing in order to show that the lawyer, like all the rest of humanity, needs not to stand his ground but to see the face of grace, and then to move, to repent.

If it were an example story, then the moral would be, “The Samaritan did a good deed, now go imitate him in your life.” To which the lawyer could no doubt have replied, “I already do.

I am good person like that Samaritan.

And what the parable did was to generate an experience, to cause the lawyer to see himself for what he was, a man in deep trouble.

Only the Samaritan, the despised Samaritan, the one by whom the lawyer would not want even to be touched, only the Samaritan lifted him up, dressed his wounds, cared for his life, helped him move from a place of death to a place of life.

By telling this parable, Jesus ironically gave the lawyer a great gift, a work of kindness, even though the lawyer may not have thought so.

As New Testament scholar Robert Funk pointed out,The future which the parable discloses is the future of every hearer who grasps and is grasped by his position in the ditch.

So were the poor, the crippled, the blind, and others whom Jesus attracted to his side.

In other words, the genuine answer to the lawyer’s query “who is my neighbor?” is that you have no notion who your neighbor is until you, yourself, discover how needy you are, and in that need accept the unexpected gift of being neighbored by God.

However, because you are already a good person, it is not necessary to emulate the Samaritan in order to learn the lesson of Jesus’ story.

A number of years ago, I paid a visit to a Christian congregation that had a long and distinguished history of promoting interfaith understanding and mutual ministry.

I asked the preacher why, and he explained.

An intricate pattern with a small Star of David was incorporated into one of the stained-glass windows in the newly rebuilt church.

“It’s a beautiful sight,” the pastor explained.

Being in such close proximity to another person affects everything.

Tom Long grew up in Decatur, Georgia, on Gardenia Lane, a cul-de-sac lined with little houses purchased with the G.I.

John August Swanson created the artwork. “Good Samaritan,” a limited edition serigraph created by hand in 2002, measures 10 3/4 inches by 30 1/2 inches. (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 214. Robert Funk, Language, Hermeneutics and the Word of God (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 214.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37, NIV)

Vincent Van Gogh’s painting The Good Samaritan (The Good Samaritan, 189025) On one occasion, a legal expert rose to his feet to put Jesus to the test. “Teacher, what do I have to do in order to obtain eternal life?” he inquired. 26″Can you tell me what is written in the Law?” he inquired. “Can you tell me how you read it?” 26And he said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your might and with all of your mind,’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 27 28, Jesus responded, “You have given the proper response.

  1. 30 “A guy was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was ambushed by thieves,” Jesus said.
  2. Fortunately, a priest happened to be traveling along the same route at the time, and when he noticed the man, he passed by on the opposite side of the road.
  3. 33However, a traveling Samaritan happened to come across the guy and took pity on him when he observed what he was doing.
  4. Then he loaded the guy onto his own donkey and transported him to an inn, where he was cared for.
  5. ‘Take good care of him,’ he said, adding that when he returned, he would compensate her for any additional expenses she had incurred.
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Jesus told him,“Go and do likewise.”

New International Version (New International Version) In order to excuse himself, he inquired to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (And who is my neighbor? New Living Translation (New Living Translation) The guy sought to defend his acts by asking Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (And who is my neighbor?) Version standardized in English “And who is my neighbor?” he inquired of Jesus, wanting to establish his own righteousness. Berean Study Bible (also known as the Berean Study Bible) But, in an attempt to defend himself, he said of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The Literal Bible of the Bereans “And who is my neighbor?” he inquired of Jesus, seeking to establish his own righteousness.

The New King James Version (sometimes known as the New King James Version) was published in 1611.

The New American Standard Bible is a translation of the New Testament into English.

NASB (National Association of School Boards) 1995 But, in an attempt to defend himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” NASB 1977 (National Association of School Boards) But, in an attempt to defend himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” The Bible with an amplification system The man questioned Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” in an attempt to defend and vindicate his own actions.

The Christian Standard Bible is a translation of the Bible in the Christian tradition.

Nevertheless, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” in an attempt to excuse himself.

As a result, he inquired of Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?” The Bible of Douay-Rheims Nevertheless, he was eager to defend himself and asked Jesus: “And who is my neighbor?” Translation of the Good News However, the teacher of the Law desired to excuse himself, and so he inquired of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The International Standard Version (ISO) is a formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized In order to excuse himself, the man inquired of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (And who is my neighbor?) Standard Version in its literal sense Then he inquired of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” he replied, eager to establish his own righteousness.

The New American Bible is a translation of the New Testament into English.

NET Bible is an abbreviation for Networked Information Technology.

However, in an attempt to excuse himself, he inquired of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Weymouth The New Testament is a collection of writings that were written during the years of ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad ad When asked about the term “fellow man,” he responded with the question, “But what is meant by my ‘fellow man’?” The English Bible for the Whole World However, in an attempt to excuse himself, he inquired of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Young’s Literal Translation of the Text And he asked Jesus, eager to establish his own righteousness, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ he questioned.

  • Translations in addition to the above.
  • 28 “You have given the proper response,” Jesus remarked.
  • ” They stripped him naked, beat him, and then fled, leaving him half-dead on the ground.
  • Luke 16:15 (NIV) As a result, He told them, “You are the ones who defend yourselves in front of others, but God knows what is in your hearts.
  • The Scriptures are a treasure trove.
  • willing.

Luke 18:9-11 (KJV) And he spoke this parable to those who believed in themselves that they were virtuous and hated others who did not believe in themselves: … Verse 34 of Leviticus 19 is a good example of a formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formal In contrast, the alien who dwells with you must be to you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as oneself; for you were strangers in Egypt, and I, the LORD your God, have brought you back to your homeland.

  1. And.
  2. Matthew 5:43-44 (KJV) According to what you’ve heard, it’s important to love your neighbor and hate your opponent.
  3. .
  4. It is characteristic of him that he does not appear to have any reservations about his devotion to God.
  5. However, there were reservations about the second commandment, and our Lord, perhaps sensing that there had been a tone of censure in his response, vindicates himself by asking the question, “Who is my neighbor?” (Who is my neighbor?
  6. The 29th verse is a proverbial proverbial proverbial proverbial proverbial proverbial And who is my next-door neighbor?
  7. He felt at comfortable in his conscience when it came to the first portion, his obligation towards God, at least as far as his wretched warped intellect could comprehend the concept.

To be sure, the Pharisee-conscience lawyer’s was at peace when it came to God!

On that particular day, he reflected on his actions towards that plain, truthful-looking Galilaean Rabbi, Jesus; attempting to trip him up with his words, wishing to cause him damage – injury to that worn-looking, loving Galilaean Rabbi.

Is Washe, by chance, his next-door neighbor?

Greek However, (de)ConjunctionStrong’s 1161: (de)ConjunctionStrong a fundamental particle; yet, and, and, and, etc.

Strong’s 1344: From the Greek dikaios, which means to render just or innocent.

he inquired εἶπεν(eipen) The Aorist Indicative Active tense is in the third person.

A fundamental verb, which means to talk or utter anything.

“Of Hebrew origin; Jesus, the name of our Lord, and two other Israelites,” says SingularStrong’s 2424.

‘who(tis)’ is an interrogative / indefinite pronoun in the nominative masculine form.

It is most likely emphatic of tis; an interrogative pronoun, such as who, which, or what; and a question mark.

‘I am, exist,’ says SingularStrong in 1510.

myμου(mou) Possessive Personal Pronoun – Genitive Form 1st Person Pronoun SingularStrong’s 1473:I, the first-person pronoun, is a good example of this.

”πλησίον(plēsion) A neighbor is close by, nearby, or nearby in AdverbStrong’s 4139.

“And who is my neighbor?” Reflections on the Gospel and Racial Reconciliation

I just presented a sermon from Luke 10:25–37, which you can listen to here. This is the well-known interaction between Jesus and a rabbi who is well-versed in the Mosaic law that leads to the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is the first portion of this paragraph that answers the lawyer’s first question, “What should I do to inherit everlasting life?” The second part of this chapter answers the lawyer’s second question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The second section responds to the second question posed by the lawyer, “And who is my neighbor?”

“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

After responding to the lawyer’s original inquiry (Luke 10:25–28), Jesus directs him back to the Torah, saying, “What is written in the Law?” (Luke 10:25–28). The lawyer then reads from Deuteronomy 6:5 on one’s responsibility to love God, as well as from Leviticus 19:18 regarding one’s responsibility to love one’s neighbor. Instead of dismissing the lawyer’s response as “legalism,” Jesus supports it and instructs him to follow his instructions: “Do this, and you will live.” In other words, Jesus acknowledges that keeping the Law is one of the requirements for obtaining everlasting life.

The reality is that none of us are capable of doing so.

The answer is that no human man has been able to properly obey God’s commandments in this life, and he does so on a daily basis in thought, speech, and deed since the fall of man.

We must repent of our sin and place our confidence and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who has atoned for our sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19).

“And who is my neighbor?”

The legal expert acknowledged that he was unable to love his neighbor in the manner required by the law. Instead of acknowledging that he was a sinner in need of God’s love and forgiveness, he attempted to relax the demands of the Law by defining his neighbor in a limited manner, which was condemned by the Law. “And who do you consider to be my neighbor?” he inquired of Jesus. You know, rabbinical doctrine at the time taught that one’s neighbor may be defined as a fellow observant Jew, which was a rather restrictive definition.

  1. Through the narrowing of the definition of his neighbor, the lawyer hoped to give the impression that he was abiding by the Law of God.
  2. In this tale, Jesus makes it plain that our neighbor is anybody who lives in our immediate vicinity, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or socio-economic level.
  3. Recognize the reality of sin and the consequences of sin on our neighbor.
  4. If we want to live as Christians, we cannot remain cloistered in our rural or suburban bubbles and pretend that our urban, impoverished, or minority neighbor lives in the same way that we do.
  5. Furthermore, we need to acknowledge that our poor or black neighbor frequently has a different experience with the police and the justice system than we do.
  6. Bring to light the hollowness of religion, which is indifferent about our fellow man.

Look, we can profess to believe in the gospel, we can go to church on a regular basis, and we can even evangelize the lost; however, Scripture makes it clear that all of this is merely vanity and meaningless noise if we are not actively living out the gospel by loving our neighbor in practical and tangible ways.

  1. When our neighbor is hungry, we must provide him with food and, if possible, educate him how to provide for himself.
  2. 3.
  3. The third point that Jesus makes in verse 33 is that loving our neighbor requires us to confront and reject the prejudice that exists against our neighbor both in our own hearts and in our society as a whole.
  4. Samaritans were half-breeds who were willing to compromise on their religious beliefs.
  5. As a matter of fact, many Jews who traveled throughout Palestine chose to avoid passing through Samaria on purpose.
  6. “They’re a bunch of slackers.” “They are incapable of taking personal responsibility.” It’s just that they’re getting what they deserve.” This sort of thinking, brothers and sisters, is condemned by Scripture, and we are commanded to oppose and reject it.
  7. 4.
  8. The fourth point that Jesus makes in lines 34–35 is that loving our neighbor requires us to be prepared to sacrifice our own time, money, and convenience for the benefit of the impoverished, defenseless, and downtrodden in our own communities.
  9. “If a brother or sister is in need of daily food and clothing, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and fed,’ without providing them with the things necessary for the body, what good is that?” writes James.
  10. Taking part in these four activities demonstrates compassion and mercy to the weak, the impoverished, and the oppressed, and they are practical methods to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
  11. In this specific case, Jesus instructed the lawyer to love his neighbor by demonstrating mercy.

We are all ordered to love our neighbor, which implies that we are all obligated to love our neighbor personally. It is a duty that each individual believer, and not only the church as a whole, must bear in mind.

The Implications of the Gospel and Racial Reconciliation

This doctrine, church, should not be a source of contention among members of our congregation who believe in it. As a matter of fact, this teaching can be found throughout Scripture, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. For example, both James and John emphasize the need of Christians demonstrating love to their neighbors in practical ways (James 1:27; 2:15–17; 1 John 4:20–21; 1 John 4:20–21). Even beyond their encouragement, both of these individuals claim that professed Christians who fail to love their neighbor in practical ways are most likely not true believers.

  1. When our lives do not mirror the reality of the gospel, we know that something is not right with us.
  2. Each believer and congregation will have their own interpretation of what this looks like.
  3. As Christians and members of the church, we should endeavor to alleviate the suffering of others, that is, to address the ramifications of poverty, prejudice, racism, and injustice.
  4. Believers and churches should take practical action to overcome poverty, discrimination and racism as well as injustice in other situations.
  5. What we have decided to accomplish demands prudence and discretion.
  6. ** Neither the views nor opinions stated by the author are necessarily representative of the views or opinions of the elder board of Grace Bible Church, nor do they necessarily reflect the official stance of Grace Bible Church.
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How Do We Know Who Our Neighbor Is?

During the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom of Israel, the Jews who were left behind intermarried with their conquerors, the Assyrians, resulting in a mixture of cultures. Being half Jew and half Gentile, they were known as the Samaritans because of their mixed heritage. They were a mash-up of foreign pagans and dishonest Jews from throughout the world. As a result, they were universally despised. Samaritans were considered to be worse than Gentiles in the sight of the Israelites. Throughout this portion of Scripture, Jesus tells us about a guy named Samaritan, a man who, on the basis of his moral character, was considerably superior to many of the Jews with whom He interacted.

After that, Jesus inquires as to what is written in the law.

His client is informed by Jesus that he is correct and that the lawyer should adhere to biblical principles (Leviticus 18:5;Nehemiah 9:29;Ezekiel 20:11;Romans 10:5).

He was, on the other hand, a Rabbi who interpreted the Mosaic Law.

As a result, he functioned in a legal capacity. But I’m not sure I’d want him to represent me in court if the situation arose. However, instead of being forthright, the lawyer attempted to excuse himself (Luke 16:15) by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (And who is my neighbor?)

The Story of the Good Samaritan

According to the lawyer, the injured man was a topic for conversation; the thieves were viewed as an item to take advantage of; the priest was considered as a problem to avoid (Psalm 38:11); and the Levite was regarded as an object of fascination. Only the Good Samaritan saw him as a person worthy of love, which was unheard of at the time (John 4:9). The lawyer is a representative of human rights. The robbers are a symbol of anarchy. Religion is represented by the priest. The Levite is a representation of labor.

  • How many of us have received grace but have failed to demonstrate it?
  • It is frequently simple to justify the absence of affection, despite the fact that it is rarely the accurate explanation.
  • Our neighbor is anyone who is in need of something, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, religion, or social base.
  • Love entails taking action to fix the problem.
  • It’s impossible to think of a better rationale for denying to assist.
  • The Jews regarded themselves to be the pure and unadulterated descendants of Abraham, but the Samaritans thought themselves to be a mixed race that arose as a result of intermarrying between Jews from the Northern Kingdom and various ethnic groups during Israel’s exile.
  • Honestly, he couldn’t face the thought of responding with the word “Samaritan” in response to the inquiry that Jesus posed in verse 36.
  • As a result, how can this assist us in better understanding our neighbor?
  • Any individual who needs our assistance is considered a neighbor.
  • Individuals are in desperate need of Christ, the Good Samaritan.
  • But, more importantly, what are we doing to guarantee that people understand who Jesus Christ is?

Who Is My Neighbor?

I was walking my dog Lucien through our neighborhood one day in June when I came up with this concept. It appeared as though a man was prepared to conduct some yard work on an adjacent street, since he was parked in his driveway. He greeted me and inquired as to how I was doing. My planned operation to remove a tumor from my right kidney was brought up by chance, and I informed him about it. The physicians had discovered a tumor, which they suspected to be malignant. The man prayed for me out in his driveway, and I felt his blessing.

  • Why am I bringing this up in relation to my battle with cancer, which God miraculously healed me of?
  • In the beginning, we didn’t know each other.
  • It didn’t matter before and it doesn’t matter now what color skin we have.
  • It also makes no difference whatever church we belong to.
  • No matter where we travel, we will come across someone who may be in need and who may become our neighbor.
  • Someone in our place of employment could require our assistance.
  • It’s possible that we don’t have the item that someone is looking for.

Take a look again at verse 30, where the thieves who attacked this guy are mentioned.

They took from this guy in order to satisfy their own greed.

What about the priest in verse 31?

You would think that a supposed man of God would be compassionate, yet he was only concerned with his faith.

It was not his concern that this man had been hurt.

This man was a worker, and it was not part of his job description to assist this injured individual.

The Levite walked up to the man and stared him in the eyes out of curiosity.

I believe the Levite reasoned that he just did not want to squander any of his time.

However, when the Samaritan, as described in verse 33, came upon the injured man, he was moved by compassion, and he did everything he could to assist him.

As a result, in whatever you do, treat people as you would like them to treat you, since this sums up the Law and the Prophets in one sentence (Matthew 7:12). What you do to others should mirror what you would like others to do to you (Luke 6:31).

Why Do Our Neighbors Matter?

This is referred recognized as the Golden Rule in many circles. Why am I bringing this up? Put yourself in the shoes of this man who has been hurt. Were you to find yourself in a similar situation, would you not want someone to come to your aid? There is little question that many of us have need some form of assistance at some point in our lives. Was it our pride that prevented us from asking for help, or our pride that prevented us from helping someone else? What is it that prevents us from assisting our neighbors?

  • Who is our next-door neighbor?
  • Further reading may be found at: During COVID-19, how do I love my neighbor as I love myself?
  • An In-Depth Exploration of The Parable of the Good Samaritan Photograph courtesy of iStock/Getty Images Plus/JackF Chris Swanson has been in the ministry for more than 20 years, having heeded the call.
  • Chris is a former Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with more than 30 years of combined active and reserve duty in the Navy and Marine Corps Reserves.
  • Chris possesses a Doctor of Ministry degree, as well as an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in health management.
  • For those of you who are interested in having Chris give God’s Word in your place of worship, you may reach him at the following address:

Who is My Neighbor and Better Questions

“But he, trying to excuse himself, asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” he continued. Luke 10:29 (NIV) The following passage may be familiar to you. Today, during my quiet time, I reread the book. It’s one of those passages that we are familiar with so well that we may believe we understand everything it is saying, but there may be something new for us to learn from it. So, just to give you a little background, this lawyer guy approaches Jesus and asks how he might inherit eternal life. “What is in the Law?” Jesus returns the question to him, and he responds, “what is in the Law?” “Can you tell me how you read it?” Fortunately, the man responded correctly by explaining that the law requires us to love God completely and our neighbor as ourselves.

“Now go ahead and do it.” This is the point at which the man attempted to defend himself by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” At this time, Jesus shares the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan with the audience.

However, if we are not careful, we may come to believe that Jesus is somehow following the laws of this particular individual.

Keep in mind that the lawyer is interested in knowing “who my neighbor is.” However, Jesus uses the story to pose a different question: “Which of these three, do you believe, proved to be a neighbor to the man who was taken prisoner by the robbers?” In His story, Jesus is not telling us how to be a loving neighbor to anyone or anything in particular; rather, He is telling us how to be a loving neighbor to anyone and everyone.

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Here’s where the danger lies for us.

“It’s only these kinds of people, right?” says the narrator.

The kingdom response doesn’t ask questions that limit like “who do I love?”, rather it asks expansive questions like, “how can I love?”

Who Is My Neighbor?

A YOUNG LAWYER comes to Jesus and asks what he needs do in order to “acquire eternal life.” To this Jesus responds with a straightforward command: “Love God and love your neighbor.” That’s all there is to it, says Jesus. The interrogator, on the other hand, asks Jesus a follow-up question: “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25–37; Matthew 10:25–37). Because of the context, it’s evident that this attorney was attempting to narrow or limit the extent of who may be considered his neighbor. The tone is not one of widening the scope of his love for his neighbor, but rather one of constraining his love for his neighbor.

That Jesus is simply commending the act of reaching out to another in need, as the Samaritan does, as opposed to the priest and Levite in Jesus’ story, who famously passed by the man because they were too busy, preoccupied, or afraid of being late to an important religious meeting, is a traditional interpretation of the Good Samaritan.

  1. Although compassion and service to the poor are important, what Jesus is attempting to teach us here goes far deeper than that.
  2. However, Jesus selects the despised “other” as an example of what it means to be a neighbor.
  3. A day before his assassination, Martin Luther King Jr.
  4. King described the environment as “very favourable to ambush.” “And so the Levite’s first inquiry was, ‘What would happen to me if I don’t stop helping this man?’ he wondered.
  5. A clear attack against tribalism, both among his own people and among all of us, as well as a declaration that those who choose to join Jesus’ tribe would be known for reaching out to and standing with all of the other tribes.

I think that when Jesus’ lesson is used as a yardstick for determining who our neighbors are and how we treat them, this tale has the potential to transform societies and even governments.

Getting outside our path

This is how theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez expressed it: “Who is my neighbor? In this case, the neighbor was a good Samaritan who approached the injured guy and welcomed him inside his home. “The neighbor is not someone I happen to come across on my walk, but rather someone I want to come across, someone I approach and actively pursue,” says the author. Who crosses our way on a daily basis and who does not? That is part of the problem: we are restricted in our ability to love our neighbor because of the narrow routes we have created for ourselves among the “neighbors” around us, our people, and those we consider “us.” Rather than staying on our typical route, Jesus is urging us to venture outside of it in order to locate those who are the ultimate test of the question “who is my neighbor?” Our most vulnerable neighbors will only be discovered if we actively seek them out, by purposely placing ourselves in paths that are distinct from those used by our own and our people’s typical paths.

A serious challenge and regular compromise to the clear call of Jesus to love our neighbors who are not in our immediate vicinity is presented by our nation’s racial geography—a geography that was not established by chance, but rather by public policy and deliberate strategy, and which prevents people from finding their “neighbors.” Considering how much our lives are divided by residential, economic, racial, and religious boundaries, we won’t be able to truly do what Jesus commands unless we interrupt our typical paths by traveling outside of them.

  1. When it comes to transgressing those boundaries—the ones that make it hard to obey Jesus’ response to the question “who is my neighbor?”—we must ask ourselves whether we are willing to do so.
  2. My father, Jim Wallis Sr., served as an officer in World War II, and was dispatched to the Pacific after graduating from college, getting married, and being commissioned as an officer in the Navy all on the same day on a very hectic schedule.
  3. Our young family, like many others, was fortunate enough to obtain two significant benefits: the GI Bill for educational expenses and an FHA loan for a home.
  4. A gorgeous street named River Park in a lovely Detroit neighborhood known as Redford Township, where practically every home is a three-bedroom ranch house captained by someone who served in World War II, was where we settled when we first arrived.
  5. Everyone in our neighborhood, school, and local church had the same physical appearance as us.
  6. In the South, Jim Crow laws stopped it, while in the North, segregated education and banking rules kept it from happening.

But we never gave it a second thought or brought it up in conversation. No one did in the white community, at least not publicly. We were all traveling in the same direction.

Eye-opening moments

As a teenager, I began to have some concerns about it all, including why people seemed to live so differently and independently in white and black Detroit, and why they looked to be so divided. In my all-white environment, the difficult questions were not welcomed, and they were never honestly answered. I recognized that if I truly wanted to get the answers, I would have to venture outside of the constraints of my current career and ask the same questions in a different setting. My inquiries led me to the city of Detroit, where I did low-paying summer jobs among other young men my age—but they were black, and I was white, and I soon realized that this was the major difference between us.

I was earning money for education, and they were earning money to maintain their households.

Throughout my life, there have been numerous instances that have served as major eye-openers for me, experiences that are referred to as “epiphanies” in the spiritual community.

When I asked his mother about the Detroit police, she replied, “I tell my children that if they ever get lost and can’t find their way home, and they see a police officer, hide behind a building or duck under a stairwell; wait until he passes, and then find your way home.” I’ll never forget what she said.

The reason I trust tales from black parents now is because I discovered a place where I heard such stories a long time ago, which was outside of my normal route.

Two things have always had the most impact on my worldview: going in locations where I was not allowed to be and meeting individuals with whom I was not intended to be acquainted, much alone become “neighbors.” Getting outside of our tribe routes and listening to the lives of those whose pathways have been so different from ours is what Jesus meant when he said to love our neighbor—getting outside of our tribal pathways and listening to the lives of those whose pathways have been so different from ours.

They are the litmus test for how well we love our neighbor.

During my lifetime, I have never witnessed a moment when this biblical and spiritual fact has been more accurate than it is right now. We must recover Jesus’ teaching by searching out and identifying our genuine neighbors if our faith is to maintain its purity and our democracy to remain functional.

The two great loves

When questioned by the religious authorities of his day, “What is the greatest commandment?” he replied, “It is the greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.” “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” Jesus said. This is the first and most important commandment of all. It’s similar to the second verse, which says, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “All of the law and the prophets are hanged on these two commandments,” says Matthew 22:37–40.

  • Everything begins with and returns to these two great loves.
  • They must be elevated to the level of questions of religion, with the potential to unite us across political divides.
  • Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary put it, when he said that Jesus meant “our neighbors can come from surprising places.” Conservative evangelical and Republican strategist Peter Wehner recently connected President Trump’s behavior to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
  • However, this will not be the end of the story.
  • ‘Truly I say to you,’ he stated in Matthew, ‘to the degree that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.’ He was referring to the fact that he had done something to one of his brothers.
  • ” “Go and do likewise,” Jesus instructs.
  • Showing mercy to people in need is a demonstration of one’s love for God.
  • This is a fundamental principle of discipleship.
  • Neighbors are not defined by ethnicity, faith, or gender; neighbors are anybody who is in need, and all of whom are created in the image of God, regardless of their background.

Ringe, in her commentary on Luke, underlines that being a good neighbor includes taking an active role: “It is not enough to just have a neighbor; one must also be a neighbor.” As a whole, the narrative serves as yet another challenge to the transformation of daily life and the continuation of business as usual that is at the core of discipleship.” And that entails stepping beyond of one’s comfort zone.

Hunger for a deeper conversation

The polar opposite of loving your neighbor isn’t always loathing them; it might also be just being uninterested in them. Is it possible that our indifference to our neighbors enables us to be willing to disregard their lives, their needs, and even their children? If we are to be really honest, we must acknowledge that white privilege, as well as any other form of privilege, allows for this apathy. The fact that so many white individuals are completely unaware of their own privilege has struck me as I’ve traveled throughout the country.

Alternatively, as one young black guy observed at a forum, “If you can’t recognize white privilege, you have it.” However, the encouraging thing I have seen is that many people are hungry for a deeper discourse about what and who our neighbors are—and for meaningful action as a result of that conversation.

However, when those dialogues do not take place across lines of difference such as race, religion, immigrant status, and others, it represents a significant loss of potential for learning how to live as neighbors with one another.

Realizing that the very center of all religion and law is “Love God, love your neighbor”—particularly those who are different from you—can alter our lives, our communities, and our world, we may begin to transform ourselves, our communities, and our world.

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