Love God. Love You. Love Others.

“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Who is my neighbor?”

These questions came from an expert in the Law of Moses.  He had been having a conversation with Jesus. In the account that we read in Luke 10, this man put forth these questions in order to tempt or test the Savior.

To the first question about gaining eternal life, Jesus responded with a question of His own: “What do you read in the Law?”

The response of the lawyer, taken from Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5, was this:  “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 love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus was in agreement with his answer. He told the man to do these things and get the kingdom life. All the ordinances, some 613 of them in the writings attributed to Moses, were concentrated in these two commands.

In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, the Lord categorized these two instructions as the greatest of all the commandments. The apostle Paul affirmed this opinion in his letter to the Romans, telling his readers that all of the Law rests on love:  “…  You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, you shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, all are  summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).

Ah, but this most religious man sought an out, a work-around. That is the point of his follow-up question:  “Who is my neighbor?”

Isn’t that so like us?  We demand clarification in order to escape a matter of simple obedience.

The answer of Jesus was direct. Love. Love. Love.

Love your Lord and in so loving Him — heart, soul, strength, and mind — you discover true love for yourself.

Dive into this commitment to Him, purpose to seek first His Kingdom, and you see who you are and what you were made for – to glorify God and enjoy Him. The Westminster Catechism, a Puritan-influenced teaching guide for Christian living, begins this way:  “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.”

You love God. You love you. You love others.

Once you’ve learned to love yourself as God loves you, only then will you understand the way to loving your neighbor.

A Story of Love

This lawyer made an attempt to stir up a theological debate. He wanted to drag Jesus into the weeds of analysis.

The nature of the religion expressed among the Jewish people at that time was lost in the debates of details, especially in the area of the Sabbath. Simply, the scholars and teachers of the Law, spent a whole lot of work trying to define what it really means not to work, to rest.

The most respected rabbis of the ages taught and wrote thousands of opinions on the matter. Leviticus states in a number of places that Sabbath means just this:  no labor was to be done either by man or beast.

These knowledgeable ones directed their hearts, souls, strengths, and minds into empty pursuits. A product of the educational dynamic of his day, it should not surprise us that this lawyer wanted to enter into a learned discussion on neighborliness.

The Savior refused to enter the realm of abstraction. Jesus had thanked the Father for the ones who followed Him with simple faith. Click To Tweet

The Savior refused to enter the realm of abstraction. Jesus had thanked the Father for the ones who followed Him with simple faith:  “… I thank You Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (Luke 10:21).

“Who is my neighbor?”

There would be no doctrinal dissertation coming from the Son regarding the question. Instead, He addressed the matter as the Lord always seems to address most high things.

He told a story.

And this story is one the whole world has come to know very well as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Reference is made to these words practically every time someone makes news by doing an honorable thing in helping someone in need.

You know how Jesus told it. A man was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho when he got ambushed by thieves. He was left naked and half-dead by the side of the road. Two religiously minded men – a priest and a Levite, men with whom the lawyer would have been well acquainted – passed by, saw the man in need, but chose to cross the street and leave him lying there.

“A certain Samaritan” saw the man and had compassion. He dressed his wounds with oil and wine; he transported the man to an inn, cared for him, and also made arrangements for his further treatment. The finishing touch was this question posed to the lawyer and to all who heard:  “Which now of these three do you think was a neighbor unto the one who fell among the thieves?”

The lawyer was caught. Jesus had flipped the script on him. He had to admit that the Samaritan who showed mercy was the real hero in the story.

“Go and do likewise,” Jesus said to him. In essence, the lawyer was told this:

Be like the Samaritan.

Sounds like a great slogan to slap on a T-shirt or bumper sticker doesn’t it?

The Right Question

The lawyer had been asking the wrong question all along.  The real question is this one, and we must ask it of ourselves, “Am I a neighbor?”

The words spoken during this encounter exposed how wrong our hearts can be. And when the heart is disordered the effects are felt all over us.

Samaritans were ostracized by those who counted themselves true Israelites. These groups were literally neighbors — people living side-by-side under the auspices of the Roman Empire. There was racial and social animus throughout the region. Such prejudice in the heart leads to infected souls, hindered strength, and dark, cloudy thinking.

This lawyer likely possessed an amazing mind. He surely exercised much strength in studying the pages of the Scriptures. He took pride in his knowledge, and it shaped his identity.

What of his heart? What was inside of it? Was it really given to the worship of the Lord and toward bringing glory to Him?

These are questions all of us have to wrestle with. There’s a whole atmosphere in our world that assaults our attempts to live for God.

Am I a neighbor? A holy neighbor like the Samaritan? I want to be like the man in Jesus’ story. I can’t make myself like the Samaritan, however, with good thoughts and deeds.

What I need is love from the Lord. I have to let God love me and recognize the simple fact of the matter. That is, He loves me today and every day.

If His love captivates my heart, then I will see as He sees. Anyone around me then becomes my neighbor.

And I may not like some of the neighbors I know and see. Still, there is a love from above that can flow through me and out of me. I can help the wounded and show God’s compassion, because I have been loved and cared for by Him.

Love God. Love you. Love others.

Go and do this.

 

Steve Andrulonis
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