The actual meaning of ‘Love your neighbour.’

Posted by admin on 9 May 2021 in Luke |

Luke 10:25-37

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

26 ‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’

27 He answered, ‘ “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.”’

28 ‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

30 In reply Jesus said: ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

36 ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

37 The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’

Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ [1]

An expert in the law tested Jesus by asking, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ (25).

Jesus answered by asking back, ‘What is written in the Law? How do you read it?’ (26). Here we can learn that asking back is the best way to answer those who want to test or trap us.

The expert in the law answered: ‘ “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.”’ (27)

Jesus replied, ‘You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.’ (28)

This revealed that the expert of the law knew the answer. Therefore he didn’t have to ask Jesus for the answer. He wanted to justify himself and asked another question so that Jesus might answer. His question was, ‘ And who is my neighbour?’ (29).

Jesus told him the parable of the good Samaritan. See v30-35.

‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half-dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”’

We could think that the person in need in this parable was ‘my neighbour’. However, Jesus taught ‘my neighbour’ was ‘a Samaritan’. Two among three (a priest, a Levite, a Samaritan) didn’t become a neighbour in the parable. Jesus asked, ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ (36)

By answering this question, we realise

  • Being a neighbour is not determined by a physical distance as a priest, and a Levite didn’t become a neighbour when they came close to the person in need.
  • We can be a neighbour to the person in need by ‘deliberately (or actively) becoming a neighbour’.

Then we realise ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ has a new meaning.

That is, ‘Love the one actively becoming your neighbour as yourself.’

The expert in the law replied, ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ (37a)
Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ (37b)

37a and 37b give us, ‘Actively become a neighbour to a person in need by having mercy on the person.’

In this parable, a priest and a Levite avoided the man victimised by robbers despite their religious responsibility in society. It is ironic, but such irony is repeated throughout the books of the Gospel. Those who were against Jesus and tried to kill Him were also priests and religious leaders. Also, ironically the true neighbour was the Samaritan[2], who other Israelites most despised for their religious standards compromised by the influences such as the Assyrian culture. What did the Samaritan do for the man who met robbers?

The Samaritan

  • took pity on him.
  • provided him with first aid.
  • provided him with transport.
  • provided him with hospitality.
  • took responsibility for the future cost.

In summary, let us put down our titles. Based on the books of the Gospel, it is obvious that Jesus wants us to put them down. It is not about whether we have the title like ‘Christian’. But it is about the truth, about love, and about being a true neighbour.

[1] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Anglicised Edition, 2011). (2011). (Revised and updated edition, Lk 10:25–37). London: Hodder & Stoughton.

[2] The Samaritan region was invaded by the Assyrians and mixed with them. As a result, Israelites in the region lost their pure blood and were called the Samaritans.

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