Luke 10:27b-29 (CEV)
They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”
28 Jesus said, “You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life.”
29 But the man wanted to show that he knew what he was talking about. So he asked Jesus, “Who are my neighbors?”
The Right Answer
Yesterday we had the first half of the answer: “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’” But as promised, here’s the rest of the answer to the question the man was asked. “‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”
The guy gets his points for his answer. Jesus says, yep, that’s right. That’s how you’re going to get eternal life.
You’ve got all your bases covered in your answer, dude.
Except, he’s not.
Luke tells us that he wants to show that he knows what he’s talking about, but I think maybe what he actually wants to do is justify himself – point out just how impossible it is for this to be the answer.
So he pushes Jesus by asking him, but who are my neighbors?
You see, it kind of matters who our neighbors are. If we have to love them, then the lines that we draw around who is in and who is out is going to make a difference.
In a small village of 80 people, it’s a little hard to get away from the fact that someone is your neighbor, so you can probably guess that you’re responsible for loving and caring for all of those folks. But even by Jesus’ day, life isn’t that simple or that straight forward.
Society has grown. The tribal divisions and village boundaries that used to hold us all in nicely defined sets have eroded even by the first century, and now the people who this guy lives next to don’t always feel like they’re connected to him in any way, shape or form.
Maybe there’s a Roman centurion on this guy’s street. Maybe there’s some Greek traders who he has to pass every time he goes to the market. Maybe there are some Roman temples and Roman priests in his village now. Maybe he’s a descendent of the tribe of Levi, but there are people from three other tribes in his village – and some of them have even intermarried over the years with one of the many waves of migrants and powers that have swept over Israel since Moses’ day.
And the guy is just being pragmatic here when he asks this question, because loving all of those people is going to be a lot bigger, a lot more complicated job than finding a small set that counts and simply loving them.
“I know I’m supposed to love my neighbor, but surely there have to be lines somewhere. This can’t be for everyone, can it?”
Spoiler alert: I don’t think this is going to end the way this guy is hoping it will.
Spoiler alert: I think Jesus has a bigger view of this answer than this guy or any of us actually want it to be.
It’s comfortable and easy to love people like us.
It’s comfortable and easy to love people who love us.
But that kind of love will never transform us.
That kind of love will never remake us more and more into the people God made us to be, living life the way God intended life to be lived.
The kind of love that God is after is different, because it’s a love that changes everything.
- Who do you think of when you hear the word ‘neighbor’?
- How old are they? Where do they work? What culture are they from? How do they live? What do they believe?
- What do you think of the idea of loving these people? Does that sound difficult or easy?
- Are you busy practicing that love already? What does that love look like?
- What kind of transformation is that love having on you and on the people around you?