September 29 I Saturday
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” —Luke 10:36
An expert in the law asks Jesus a question about inheriting eternal life. The result is a conversation about loving God and loving your neighbour. The expert, who had been trying to trap Jesus but now likely felt trapped himself, then tries to justify his initial question by asking, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was attacked, robbed and left for dead. Both a priest and a Levite passed the man by, but a Samaritan stopped, bandaged his wounds and brought him to an inn to be taken care of.
Christians today are typically surprised by the cold and callous priest and Levite in this parable, but what would have shocked a first-century Jew was that a Samaritan stopped to help. The Samaritans were descendants of Israelites who had intermarried with Assyrians and began worshipping their gods after Assyria conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C. Jews hated Samaritans for their mixed blood and idolatry, thinking them the worst of the worst and totally undeserving of care or respect.
It is significant that Jesus distinguishes between how the Jewish and Samaritan travellers arrived at the scene. He says the Levite “came to the place” where the man was beaten, but the Samaritan “came where the man was” (Luke 10:32-33). There is no difference geographically—same place, same man—but there is a difference in perspective. If we simply come to the place where others are in need, we will be moved sentimentally but may hesitate to get involved. But when we come to people, that is when we will be moved by true compassion and do something.
After telling this parable, Jesus asks which of the three men was a neighbour to the man left beaten on the side of the road. He subtly rephrases the question from “Who is my neighbour?” to “To whom must I become a neighbour?” The point is not so much that the man on the ground was the neighbour to be loved, but that the Samaritan put aside prejudice and became a neighbour to the beaten man. He chose to help, even though he had every reason to keep walking.
Becoming a neighbour is not just about doing loving actions but developing a loving attitude. Despite our best will in the world, we often find ourselves carrying prejudices against people on certain grounds, which is why Jesus focuses the issue back on our hearts. As Christians, we are called to become neighbours, letting the Holy Spirit develop loving attitudes and actions in us for others no matter their background, politics, beliefs or life choices.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that Your Spirit is transforming my attitude so that love is my natural response and I increasingly desire to become a neighbour to all I interact with.