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?”
What was this expert in the law asking? Who is my neighbor? In other words, just who do I have to love? I certainly don’t want to be wasting any love on anyone I don’t have to. The law seeks to limit liability and responsibility. “According to my contract I have to do this and no more.” “Just who am I obligated to love to fulfill the command? I will love my neighbor but no one else.” Do you sense the straight jacket of legalism in this?
To answer the question Jesus told the story of the Samaritan who reached out to a robbery victim laying by the road and acted like a neighbor to him. Though the Samaritan had no idea who this man was, his background, nationality or even whether he was “deserving” of his help he even risked his own safety to aggressively demonstrate unconditional love to a stranger. No limited liability here. Just aggressive, inclusive love. Who was the neighbor? The one who showed mercy. Jesus then instructed the law expert to go and do the same, show mercy to everyone. In other words, Jesus said, you go and take action to make every person your neighbor and then love them.
I am eternally grateful that is the heart of God. By the law’s standards, I was not a neighbor of God. I was far from Him, a victim of the Evil one left without mercy to die. Though not deserving of it, Jesus showed me mercy, picked me up and paid the price Himself, no matter what the cost, to see me healed and restored.
Can you imagine the response of the man who had been beaten the next time he sees someone lying helpless beside the road. Surely he would stop and offer any help he could. Because he received mercy he would surely be one generous to give mercy also. If we have been forgiven then we must be those who forgive. If we have been shown mercy then we must show mercy – aggressively, inclusively, where it is not deserved nor can be repaid. So who is your neighbor? or rather, who can you make your neighbor today?
1 Peter 2:10
Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.