Who Is My Neighbor?

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:29

I grew up familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan. Maybe you did, too. A story told by Jesus to an expert in religious law. 

A Jewish man is attacked and beaten and left by the side of the road. Two fellow Jews, including a Priest, pass him by. But the Samaritan stops.

Considered mixed-race Israeli and Assyrian, the Samaritans were not friends with the Jews. They held different religious beliefs and were seen as an "impure" group. My NLT translation simply introduces him by saying, "Then a despised Samaritan came along."

Despised. Impure. Different. 

But as we know, the Samaritan really shines in this story - bandaging the man, taking him to a hotel, paying his expenses, and checking back later. 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked (v39). 

Recently, Billy preached on this passage at our church. And this is the part that flipped my script on how I've always thought about this story. Because I've always seen the Samaritan as the example to follow. And I don't think that's a mistake. 

Jesus tells us to go and show mercy in the same way that this Samaritan did to the man by the road. And we often follow with gusto and good hearts. Most of the time, we genuinely want to help the downtrodden, the abused, the vulnerable. 

But why did the example need to be a Samaritan? Why couldn't the Temple assistant have shown us how to care for the vulnerable on the side of the road?

Well, I suppose I've always assumed it was a shaming technique of some kind. See, even the people you despise know how to do this. Be better, Sarah. 

But as Billy and I discussed the passage, I heard it in a new way. 

"And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus tells a story before asking, "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor?"

The religious leader: "The one who showed him mercy."

Who is my neighbor?

Who would you say is the neighbor?

The Samaritan. 

Who is my neighbor?

The despised. The impure. 

In this story, the Samaritan was not downtrodden, abused, or vulnerable. He seemed to have good faculties and flowing resources. But he was different, ethnically and religiously. He was despised. 

How does it change to consider the Samaritan as not just an example, but in fact, also our neighbor? Is it easier for us to love the injured than to love someone that is different, or even despised? 

Unfortunately for me, as Billy preached this sermon, I was convicted of my inability to love Donald Trump. But that's just one example. Ha! I have been thinking about who are the people in my life who could identify more closely with the Samaritan than the man on the side of the road? And am I loving these neighbors?

Who is my neighbor?

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