December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“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?’ 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.’”—Luke 10:25–37 (NIV)
What do you do with something you love? You take care of it, honor it, and protect it. What do you do for someone you love? You take care of them, honor them, and protect them. You’d also feed them, buy them gifts, help them heal and grow, and even fight for them.
In these verses from Luke, Jesus and a Jewish leader who knew the law very well were having a conversation about eternal life. The Jewish leader correctly answered that the way to live is to love the Lord fully and love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself. But to clarify who our neighbors are, Jesus tells this story, which illustrates that neighbors could be enemies.
Samaritans and Jews hated each other. It’s significant that the Samaritan, who was seen as a lower class, was the one who generously cared for the Jew who was injured. The priest and the Levite acted selfishly, prioritizing their journey over the man dying on the side of the road. They loved themselves but did not love their neighbor.
We’re selfish people. Admit it. There’s that hypothetical scenario that says if you were with a friend and there was a bear chasing you, your instinct would be to outrun your friend in order to save yourself. We’re designed to stay alive. We care for ourselves deeply by protecting and fighting for ourselves. It’s instinctive.
I pose that the construction of James 1:27 (NIV) indicates a correlation between loving at-risk people and loving yourself. It says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” By keeping yourself from being polluted by the world, a way of loving yourself, you’re able to more generously love others. I’m not advocating for selfish behavior, but I do believe we’re able to live out our mission more effectively if we’re healthy first. That way we can take the focus off of ourselves and put it onto others.
Just like in Jesus’ day, there are people in our world who are hurting and in need. No matter their physical or socioeconomic state, they’re our neighbors who need to be loved. They’re worthy of love because they’re people made in the image of God with inherent value, just like you and me.
We ought to act towards our neighbors as instinctively as we act towards ourselves—to love them, to keep them alive, to take care of them, to honor them, to protect them, to help them heal and grow, and to even fight for them. This is what love looks like. Sound familiar? It’s loving your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.
And it’s easy to love if we love the Lord fully first. Jesus is the ultimate Good Samaritan. He showed us what loving our neighbor looks like when He came down to rescue us who are hurting and in need, generously giving up His life that we, too, might have eternal life. When we understand and appreciate His love, we can’t help but love others!
Pause: Are there areas in your life that need to be healed? Do you understand and appreciate the love Jesus first showed you? Ask God to help you!
Practice: This week, how can you love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself? Try cooking or buying a meal for someone. Maybe you give an estranged friend a call. You could even give to or sign up to volunteer at an organization that serves at-risk populations.
Pray: Jesus, thank You that You love generously and sacrificially. Show me more of Your love today. I admit there are things in my life that are in need of Your healing, Your oil and wine. Thank You for the way You created me. Help me to love others as deeply, protectively, and instinctively as I love myself. I want to pour out Your love on others who need it the most. Keep my motives pure and my heart clean as I seek to live out the mission You have given us. Amen.
Denise Trio has been on staff with Calvary for almost two years, serving as the Director of Strategic Development. She has 10 years of project management experience, with a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Engingeering from Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA and a Master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA. When not on campus, Denise is either making her way through her book list at the beach, ordering tacos on any menu that serves them, or running her side business, The Rose Creative, which specializes in creating beautiful and meaningful products for her clients.