Amos 7:7-17; Psalm 82; (or Deuteronomy 39:9-14; Psalm 25:1-9); Colossians 1:1-14; Luke 10:25-37
“The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question.” – Nikolai Borclyaev
Should we love God or neighbor first? For Jesus that is a nonsensical question. For him we love God by loving our neighbor. Then who is my neighbor? This is the question of the lawyer who was trying to trip Jesus up (Luke 10:29). In ancient Jewish culture those in one’s family, tribe and those who live with you are your neighbors. Your enemies are not neighbors. Foreign people are not neighbors. However, Jesus clearly in his teaching extends neighbor to everyone. He tells us to love even our enemies. Should the environment and animals be considered neighbors as well? Jesus never spoke to that, nor did he deny them membership. Jesus certainly has much to say about who are neighbor is and about loving our neighbor. But on this day he takes a different twist on the subject. He is not going to tell the lawyer who his neighbor is; he tells him how to be a good neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beat up by thugs and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest happens by. Certainly this respected and honored person will help. No way! He goes to the other side of the road (Luke 10:31). Then a Levite comes by, another esteemed person; and he behaves in the same way (Luke 10:32). Finally, a Samaritan is the one who helps the man (Luke 10:33-35). Samaritans were despised by Jews because of ancient feuds they just couldn’t get beyond. So Jesus takes the most unlikely person and holds him up as a model. This story is not about who is our neighbor, the lawyer’s question. It is about how to be a good neighbor. That is a deeply spiritual question that we all must figure out for ourselves.
Luke 10:33 says that the Samaritan had compassion on the injured man. The Greek word here translated “compassion” (sometimes weakly translated pity or feel sorry) actually means “bowels.” Therefore, to have compassion, literally in Greek, means to be moved in one’s bowels. In their culture the bowels or guts were considered the seat of emotions. Even the English word “compassion” means, when broken down, to suffer with, not just feel sorry for or not simply pity. Therefore, an essential ingredient for being a good neighbor is to have compassion, suffering with the other, right down in our bowels.
Being a neighbor
is a difficult mission,
a spiritual must.