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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Who is my Neighbor?

Jesus flips this question on its head.

Luke 10:25-37 (ESV)

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

The word “lawyer” here means an expert in the Mosaic Law – a bible scholar. Although his attitude could use some adjusting, he lets Jesus answer a question with a question, and then answers Jesus’ question. A modern lawyer would never fall for that.

Now he’s on the defensive and tries to justify himself with a follow-up question – “And who is my neighbor?”

After telling this famous parable, Jesus again answers with a question – which redirects the lawyer’s one. Now it’s, “Who proved to be a neighbor?” Jesus has turned a question of identity into one of character.  That’s more to the point anyway, since the original issue was how to inherit eternal life.

Thus doth our Lord go nuclear with the command to love thy neighbor. This is one of the cornerstones of Christian living. We’re not just to love folks we like; we’re to love everyone.

This even includes our enemies.

Loving your neighbor typically takes the form of an organized charity. This is good because trying to do charity without competent training can easily do more harm than good. Unfortunately, many churches do this almost as an afterthought. If that’s true with your church, try to get them plugged into a good program.

A church should have dramatic impact on its neighborhood. People who’ve been away for many years should be struck by all the changes they see and ask, “What happened?” In the first century, Christianity transformed the Roman Empire. Later, Saint Patrick’s ministry transformed Ireland, and that transformation spread to Europe. The Reformation transformed the world.

Transformation like that is what the kingdom of God is supposed to look like.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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