How does a man who lives under the grace of God love his neighbor? We have seen that the only true way to do this is to forget about ourselves, and be our neighbor. When Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself”, He told the parable of a Samaritan, a heretic, who stopped everything to help a Jew. (Luke 10:30-37) Yet two men who came before him went out of their way to avoid this situation. These two men were religious, image driven and opinion conscious leaders of Judaism. One was a priest, the other a Levite. Their concern wasn’t necessarily what others would think of them. Rather, their concern was for their own privilege.
A Jewish leader recognized that to defile oneself with the blood of a man would mean he wouldn’t be able to partake of the Jewish festivities for that evening. Instead, he would have to be purified, and purification took time. I realize this is a simplistic way of stating the reasons for these two men avoiding the desperately injured, but I really do believe that it boiled down simply to that. The amazing act the Samaritan performed was accomplished exactly because he was a heretic, in the eyes of a Jew. He wasn’t bound by tradition and festivities to avoid making himself “unclean”. In the eyes of the Jews, he was already unclean, simply because he was a Samaritan.
The Samaritan had an unfair advantage over the religious men. He was free, not bound by religion or laws that would force him to miss the privilege of serving God. Isn’t that interesting? Religion causes us to miss the privilege of serving God. It gets in the way of loving our neighbor.
What is the moral of the good Samaritan parable? Is it that we should help people we see lying on the road, beaten to within an inch of their lives? Of course we should, but that is not the thrust of what Jesus was saying. It is simply Jesus’ way of declaring that religion refused the two Jews the opportunity to love his neighbor, while the Samaritan, a heretic, had the freedom to help a man who was considered an enemy. “Love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you. (Luke 6:27) How many other words of Christ can we tie into this one story? See if you can find any, and comment back with them. I think the story of the good Samaritan holds much of the teachings of the Messiah within it.
It is certain that the Samaritan was persecuted; he was a heretic, not because of his character, but because of his lineage. Yet in the end, this Samaritan was more free than the religious men who came before him. What is most amazing is that, in that freedom he chose to help an enemy, he went far out of his way to do so, and at great cost to himself. By the time the Jews crucified Jesus, He too was considered a heretic (“Do we not say rightly that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” John 8:48) Jesus also, at great cost to Himself, took up the cross to save us who were lying upon the road, beaten within an inch of our lives. He paid the price for our healing, and if there should be further cost, He would pay that as well upon His return. Just like the Samaritan Heretic.
If we love our neighbor, then let’s do it with grace, and without religion. Let’s act out the freedom we have to love everyone we see. Let’s lose the idea that we have to be proper first, or perfect first. “Who is my neighbor” is the question asked of Jesus, just before He told us the story of the good Samaritan. Everyone is our neighbor, and thus everyone is someone we can love.
And what love shall we give them? The kind of love that forgets who we are, and focuses on who they are. This sort of love forgets our agenda, appointments, and time. This kind of love drove Jesus to the cross. How fast He made certain He arrived there. How fast will we travel to get to the cross? You see, our cross is not suffering per se. Rather, our cross is to love our neighbor as if he is us. This happens wherever we are, because wherever we are is right where Jesus is. Our cross is not a burden, but a joy, the same joy that Jesus saw before Him as He went to the cross. (Hebrews 12:2) If we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us eyes to see, we will certainly see many of our neighbors in need of our love.