Bruce Collins, Evangelist

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Who is my Neighbor?

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29 NKJV)

How do we obtain eternal life?  At first it would seem that this story is telling us that we obtain eternal life by being a good neighbor when in fact it is teaching us that we obtain eternal life by loving our neighbor who just happens to be the unlovable Samaritan.  Verse 27 should be read like this:


Actors in the Story:

The lawyer who was challenging the Lord was the first actor.  He knew that the topic sentence of the Bible was to love God and to love our neighbor.  But as is typical of the legal system, there is a matter of interpretation involved in this verse.  While the verse is true and that is unquestioned, the interpretation is open to question.  Is my neighbor other Jews?  Is my neighbor those who live in my community?  Could my neighbor be (cough, choke), a Samaritan?  Samaritans were despised half-breeds who kind of worshipped like the Jews worshipped but who worshipped in the wrong place and had the wrong priests. The obvious conclusion is that most of us don’t love our neighbors if they are part of a despised group that we are prejudiced against by our culture. So, the lawyer didn’t love his neighbor as he loved himself as defined by the Lord and not as defined by his prejudices.

The man who fell among thieves is obviously a picture of each one of us.  Satan has robbed us and stripped us and has left us ready to die.  Who can help us?

A priest wouldn’t help him and even passed by on the other side.  After all a priest only needs to help those in his congregation, right?  The priest represents religion and religion has no sympathy for the people who really need help.  Religion preaches that God helps those who help themselves.  Religion shows favoritism to the rich.  Religion is one way many leaders control people.

A Levite came close and looked at the man and then passed by on the other side.  Levites are people of privilege who serve in the tabernacle and temple.  Perhaps he would represent lay people active in church work.  Much like the priest, this Levite didn’t see the Samaritan as his problem.

Then there is the good Samaritan.  He had no reason to help this man who likely was a Jew.  The Jew was traveling “down” and away from Jerusalem, the place where God was worshipped.  One wonders where the Samaritan was going and whether he felt threatened himself since Jews avoided Samaria and Samaritans.  But the good Samaritan had compassion, he came to where he was and picked him up and fixed him up and put him up.  He took him to an inn and promised that he would come again and repay the innkeeper for any additional expense over and above what he had already paid.  Who is the good Samaritan?  The Lord of course is the good Samaritan.  Who would have loved the Good Samaritan?  The one who fell among the thieves. 

What is the Lesson?

The lawyer needed to love the Lord as he loved himself to obtain eternal life.  The Lord was the good Samaritan.  Frankly even with a proper understanding of the parable I think most of us would agree that we don’t love the Lord as we love ourselves.  Thankfully, we do love Him, however, if we have really realized we have been traveling down and that we have fallen among thieves and He has had compassion on us. 

Now there is another lesson here as well.  If we are being Christ-like as Christians we should not avoid sinners in need, even if we wouldn’t like them in a natural way.  They might not be in our circle of close friends but if we help them, they just might become a part of our circle.  But the real lesson here is that we don’t get eternal life by doing good.  We “go and do according to the parable” when we realize that as sinners, the Lord has become our Good Samaritan and we need to love Him.  We will only love Him when we realize how much He has loved us.  He has saved us; he has preserved us.  He has brought us as saved sinners to a place where we can be cared for and healed (likely a picture of a local church) and He is coming again. 

Do we really have eternal life?

Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week April 7, 2019

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