“Love your neighbor.” Jesus illustrates the meaning of “neighbor” in the Good Samaritan’s story. A despised and hated rival of the Hebrew people helps a Jewish man who has been robbed and beaten. The idea of helping someone who is politically, culturally and religiously out of his comfort zone does not keep the Samaritan from being a good neighbor. Jesus makes it clear that everyone is our neighbor and we are to love everyone. Love doesn’t come easy. Society demands political correctness and acceptance/affirmation of all people, yet, in reality it has the opposite affect on many of us, pushing us backward into a myopic and archaic view of who our neighbor really is. Love your neighbor is big! It isn’t an option for a Christ-follower. Often our fear of the unknown, our pre-conceived ideas and our peers hold us back from loving as Jesus intended. Love casts out fear. As we begin to love, our hesitations and reservations will fall aside and we will see our fears dissipate.
Lk 10:27, 37; 1 Cor 13:1-8; Phil 2:3-4; 1 Jn 4:16, 18-19
“’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.’” (Lk 10:27) Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Co 13:4-8)
Love knows how to wait. It meets the needs of others and lifts them up. Love can freely celebrate God’s blessings in the lives of others. Love does not need accolades and thank yous; it’s about doing God’s work, not selfishness. Love doesn’t have to inflate reality in order to appear better than it is. Love respects all people. All people matter to God so they should matter to us. Love doesn’t love for the sake of self-fulfillment. Love is giving of oneself without expecting anything in return. Love is slow to anger. Think before speaking, before acting, before doing something that can’t be fixed or taken back. Loving isn’t a competition; there is no scoreboard. Love doesn’t rack up points or hold another person in its debt. Love doesn’t participate in evil. It doesn’t celebrate another’s pain. Love celebrates truth. Love protects, believes the best, hopes for, supports and perseveres.
How did your upbringing influence your fear or your love for those who are culturally and religiously different than yourself? Explain. If you are the Samaritan in the story, who is the robbed and beaten man? Have you experienced a person who is a resounding gong or clanging cymbal (as Paul describes them in (1 Co 13:1)? Read 1 Co 13:4-8. Of the things that love does, what is most difficult for you? Of the things that love doesn’t do, what is most difficult for you? What is the greatest kindness you have experienced from someone you did not know? What is greatest kindness you have done for someone you did not know? What holds you back from loving when you see a need? How does our culture hold people/you back from being a good neighbor? Are you patient with those close to you? With others?
Look for opportunities to love your neighbor. Make a commitment to be a person of patience and kindness. Record your interactions in a journal. Note how others respond to your acts of kindness. Think of one person that you have difficulty loving. Make a special effort to extend kindness to them.
Lord Jesus, in order to influence people for your kingdom, I must first love them. Help me to show patience and kindness to those around me. Help the light of your love to shine in and through me so others will want to know you. Guide me in your truth. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.