“Who is My Neighbor” is the theme for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, which is based on Luke 10:29 in the parable of the good Samaritan.
In this well-known parable found in Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is asked by a lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life.
When Jesus responds by asking what is written in the law, the lawyer replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
In his reply, the lawyer quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which is a summary of the Great Commandment that Jesus references in Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34.
After Jesus replies that the lawyer has answered rightly, the lawyer poses another question, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
Although the text informs us that the lawyer asked the question to “justify himself,” his question gives Jesus an excellent opportunity to expound upon the lawyer’s previous reference to the Great Commandment and teach His followers concerning how to live out His redemptive works.
Jesus uses the parable of the good Samaritan to drive home a major truth: Christ-followers must be willing to love and be a neighbor to all people in their world regardless of any labels including, ethnic, cultural and religious differences.
In the parable, the Samaritan is the unlikely hero of the story. After a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed, beaten and left for dead along the side of a road, three individuals come upon him. A priest and a Levite both happened upon the wounded man but offered no assistance and passed by on the other side of the road. Then came the Samaritan.
The Samaritan would have been the one least likely to show compassion for the man. Jews had no dealings with Samaritans and considered them to be a lower class of people because they had intermarried with non-Jews and did not accept or follow all aspects of the Mosaic law. While we are not told whether or not the injured man in the parable was a Jew or a Gentile, it made no difference to the Samaritan. The Samaritan saw an individual in need and provided assistance, even though meeting the needs came with personal and financial costs.
Jesus concludes the parable by asking the lawyer which of the three men acted as a neighbor to the wounded man? Commentators suggest that the lawyer’s response reveals a hardness of heart since he can not bring himself to say the word “Samaritan,” replying instead, “He who showed mercy on him.” Jesus then instructs the lawyer to “Go and do likewise.”
The question of “Who is my neighbor?” is an appropriate one for us today. As seen in the parable, our neighbors are not often who we think they are. They are those we don’t interact with or, in some cases, those we don’t want to interact with. Yet there is an expectation from our Lord to go and meet our neighbor and engage them with the love of Christ and the life changing message of the gospel. Believers and churches have the responsibility of engaging their communities and the rest of the world.
The question “Who is my neighbor?” should cause us to examine ourselves. Loving others — regardless of race, religion, socio-economic background or any other thing — in the manner described in this parable is a characteristic of a heart that has been transformed by the gospel. By God’s grace, may we follow the Samaritan’s example.