On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
We in the Christian community talk about love, how we love others. And I have to give churches credit, and especially the leadership in many churches, that those who have often been marginalized, like the poor, and those not necessarily adhering to Christian standards, along with others are being tangibly helped. That is great. We have been part of an evangelical megachurch which doesn’t just say how we’re supposed to love, but actually puts it into practice, and is adept at trying to get the entire church involved, I think with some notable success.
That said, I wonder if evangelicals have gone far enough. I have been an evangelical Christian for decades, so I speak as one who knows the movement pretty well from my limited perspective. I also speak as just one person. I don’t think it’s that significant because it’s the church that needs to speak. Yes, through the leaders, but with the voice of everyone considered.
Do we actively listen, just listen to the marginalized voices, to those who are hurting? To our African American sisters and brothers? To our LGBTQ sisters and brothers? To others who are hurting? That could include anyone, yes, anyone.
Jesus commends the religious leader for the correct answer, but then puts it in terms that are down to earth, and actually needed by this leader who wants to limit who is neighbor actually is. He would have surely said to Jesus, “Surely not one of those?!” And a Samaritan would have been at or near the top of that list.
And what does Jesus do? He makes the Samaritan so to speak the hero of the story. The Samaritan is the one who rescues the smitten Jew. That today would look like a Muslim being the hero. Or it could be a “Black Lives Matter” activist. Or someone from the LGBTQ community.
But then the question is turned back to us. What do we do? Jesus’s answer is not to tell us who are neighbor is, but rather to ask us if we’ll be that needed neighbor for the other. Something we need to let soak in more and more to make a needed difference in our lives.
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”