Who Is My Neighbor?

Alternating hands of diverse people
Interaction with others is essential to being a Christian.  After all, how are we going to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth” if we never interact with the people around us (Matt. 5:13-16)?  The apostle Paul knew this to be true, for it is recorded, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:  Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9-10).  There is an old saying, “no man is an island unto himself”.  This simply illustrates the point that we are not entirely alone.  Each of us has friends and family.  Beyond that, there are acquaintances that we regularly meet from time to time.  How do we feel toward those with whom we interact?  Do we feel burdened?  Do we feel annoyed?  If so, then maybe we are not looking at our fellow man the way that God wants.

          In Luke’s account of the Gospel, there is a record of a time when “a certain lawyer” tempted our Lord by asking, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25)?  If the man had been sincere, then there would not have been a better question to ask.  However, our Lord was aware of this “lawyer’s” motivation.  Jesus responded by questioning, “What is written in the law?  how readest thou” (Luke 10:26)?  Keep in mind, the old Law of Moses was still in effect at this point.  The “lawyer” responded, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27).  The answer that the “lawyer” gave is in complete harmony with what God expected at that time.  We can be sure of that because Jesus said, “Thou hast answered right:  this do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:28).  Likewise, Jesus also affirmed that “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40).  However, knowing those precepts, and obeying those precepts, are not the same thing.  The “lawyer”, “willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour” (Luke 10:29)?  It was then that Jesus taught that “lawyer” a lesson that we still need to understand today.

          “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way:  and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:  and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves” (Luke 10:30-36)?

          In the first century, it was commonly known that the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4:9).  These feelings ran deep.  However, in the lesson taught by Jesus, it is the Samaritan who assisted the wounded man who came from Jerusalem.  That would seem to indicate that Jesus meant for it to be understood that a Samaritan helped a Jew.  In other words, a person that was disdained would have aided the one that disliked him.  This is in sharp contrast to the behavior of the other two mentioned by the Lord.  A priest and a Levite would have been Israelites themselves.  They knowingly, and disgustingly, refused to help their own familial brother.  Yet, the Samaritan, who had “compassion”, saw that the man’s immediate needs were met.  At his own loss, the Samaritan gave “first aid”, allowed the man to ride on his own animal, and made provision for the injured man to convalesce.  There is no doubt that the Samaritan was the neighborly one in the account.  The “lawyer” even admitted such after Jesus questioned (Luke 10:37).  What Jesus said next is so powerful, but yet so simple.  “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37). 

          Our neighbor is every other human being.  Even our enemies are our neighbors.  We should make sure that we treat them accordingly (Matt. 5:44; Rom. 12:17-21).  Compassion is something that we all need.  By having compassion, we can be motivated to be the neighbor that God wants us to be.
~ Corey Barnette