Whose Neighbor Am I? Part II
Text: Luke 10:25-37 | Listen to Message
Christ’s Neighborly Love
In Part I, we saw 4 qualities of Christ-like neighborliness that are illustrated by Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan: a good neighbor sees, feels, risks, and sacrifices. Furthermore, the truly compassionate understand that “neighbor” is not something you have but something you are.
But, strictly speaking, these good principles are not good news. You see, most of us do not instinctively act this way toward our neighbors – and none of us treat all of our neighbors this way all of the time. In the area of loving our neighbors as ourselves, we all fall short of what God requires. That’s bad news. And that’s why Part I has to have a Part II.
This is why the context of the parable of The Good Samaritan is so important. A lawyer – a religious expert in the Torah – asks Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life. It’s an absurd, self-contradictory question on its face! You don’t do anything to earn an inheritance; an inheritance is a gift based on an unearned status. Nevertheless, he and Jesus seem to agree that a person could theoretically inherit eternal life if he loved God and neighbor perfectly. (The real point being that, since no one can come even close to perfection, obviously salvation must be by grace – or not at all.)
The lawyer doesn’t like where this conversation is headed, so he tries to justify himself: “Okay, so I have to love my neighbor as myself…but who is my neighbor?” He wants to define the Law in the narrowest terms and limit the scope of “neighbor” to some form of love he thinks is doable.
So the real reason for Jesus’ parable is not primarily to give us four ways to be a good neighbor. The reason, in context, is to show us just how expansive the law of love really is – and to help us come to grips with the reality that we simply cannot be saved by self-effort!
But there’s another point to the parable as well. Though we can’t be saved by our imperfect love for others, we can be saved by another’s perfect love for us.
See, the whole parable points ultimately to the love of Jesus himself. Jesus is like the Samaritan…except he traveled a much greater distance to help enemies with a much greater need, all at a much greater cost to himself. We were not half dead in our sins, we were completely dead. And Jesus did not risk his life to rescue us, he gave his life.
This is the true lesson of The Good Samaritan: we must receive the limitless love of Christ by faith; then and only then can we begin to be the neighbors Christ calls us to be.