“Neighbours… everybody needs good neighbours…”. If you agree with the sentiment of the theme song to a popular, long-running television “drama”, you’re in good company. Jesus did too! In a conversation with a lawyer who was trying to test him, Jesus told him the two greatest commandments – love God with all your being, and love your neighbour as yourself – held the keys to eternal life.
The lawyer was determined to push Jesus further. “And who is my neighbour?” he asked (Luke 10:29). It’s a good question! And we’re indebted to that lawyer because his question prompted the story of the Good Samaritan. (Read their whole conversation and the story Jesus told in response in Luke 10:25-37)
I’m sure we all have a story or two about neighbours we’ve dealt with in days gone by. How do you get along with your current neighbours? What sort of neighbour are you?
In Jesus’ story, a man is badly beaten by robbers and left half-dead on the side of the road. I find it a little sad that the first two people who saw him were religious officials – a priest and a Levite – and they ignored their injured countryman and crossed the road to avoid him. No doubt they had their reasons. We’re not inclined to excuse them. Jesus obviously intended it as a criticism; he had no time for hypocrisy. And it would have provoked his questioner; he was a religious official too. There was more to come.
Having made members of the religious hierarchy the villains in his story, his listeners might have expected Jesus to include a layperson as his hero. In fact, he makes a Samaritan – despised by Jews and normally expected to hate them in return – the story’s hero. At great personal inconvenience and substantial cost this foreigner demonstrates a level of compassion that puts the priest and the Levite to shame. With this one, simple story, Jesus has redefined for all people and all time, the concept of neighbour. “Who is my neighbour?” The one who needs my help (or the one who comes to my aid in my time of need) regardless of our geography, background or circumstances.
That “clever” lawyer was a little too clever for his own good that day. He thought he was discussing a hypothetical with Jesus. Jesus refused to leave it there. He rarely does.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour 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 10:36-37
He says the same to us today. “That’s when good neighbours become good friends”.
PRAYER: Father we thank you for your willingness to come to us in our time of need; for sending us Jesus when we were battered and bruised and unable to save ourselves; for sparing nothing in order to rescue us. Forgive us for those times when we’ve allowed busyness or preoccupation to cause us to neglect opportunities you send us to extend your love and compassion to others around us. Lead us as we seek to follow Jesus in lives of service. Help us to be good neighbours. In his name, AMEN
SONG: The Lord’s Prayer by Andrea Bocelli – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEplqV0scyo