During one of the gatherings where Jesus was teaching, a Lawyer asks Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus asks the Lawyer that in his opinion what does the law say in regards to obtaining eternal life. To which he promptly answers
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 neighbour as yourself. – Luke 10:27
Definitely this man had been been present in one of Jesus’ earlier gatherings as these were the two commandments given by Jesus himself. But this man couldn’t understand what it means to love his neighbour.
Who is our Neighbour? Our Neighbours are usually our biggest rivals, whether it be the person living across the fences or the country that shares our borders. Even a local derby match between two neighbouring clubs creates intense rivalries amongst its supporters . Over the centuries neighbours have been our biggest rivals. Countries remain in war for several decades over a piece of land that both claim to be rightfully theirs. The rivalry between Jews and Samaritans can be traced back to Joseph and his rivalry with his brothers. Samaria was the territory allotted to Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. So it was not surprising when Jesus choose the Parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate to the Lawyer that who all could be classified as ‘neighbours’
The Lawyer asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbour.” To which He replied with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ target audience comprised primarily of Jews. The Jews and Samaritans never got along. In the parable both the Priest and Levi ignore the cry of their fellow countryman but the Samaritan took pity on him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and took him to an inn so that he could recuperate. Denomination rivalries still exist between believers. Churches have been split apart on theological disparities. Jesus came to the earth to break these rivalries that we have but somehow we seem to have found new grounds for festering our rivalries with our fellow believers.
Paul in his epistle to the Romans reiterates Jesus’s teaching on loving our fellow beings.
Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. – Romans 13:10.
When Paul sent Onesimus to Philemon he sent a personal letter along asking Philemon and the Church that gathered at his house to forgive all the past wrongdoings of Onesimus. He pleads to Philemon to treat him as his fellow brother and use him in his ministry. Similarly Jesus sends a personal letter to all of us through the parable of the Good Samaritan and Paul’s testimony to love our fellow beings irrespective of their past mistakes.
If loving our Neighbours wasn’t hard enough Jesus adds another category of people for us to love. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-44.
The punch line is ‘Pray for those who persecute you’. Can we seriously sit down during our prayer hour and pray for the well being of those who persecute us? But that is what Jesus did on the cross, gathering the strength in his dying moment to pray for the forgiveness of the people who crucified him. Can we set aside our needs and pray for our Neighbour’s needs? The Samaritan would have had his family waiting for him, his job he needed to get back to, yet he took out a few days from his routine to help the wounded traveler. Can we devote five minutes of our prayer time to remember our fellow beings?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. – 1 John 4:7