Braving the Deep

Day 3 of 5 • This day’s reading


Who Are My Neighbors?

This may very well be one of the most famous parables that Jesus told. There are so many ways to look at this story and pull many treasures from it. In our journey this week, though, the challenge is for us to ask this: Who is my neighbor?

At this point in history, when a Jewish teacher spoke of an Israelite’s neighbor, they generally meant another Israelite. They were referring to the passage in Leviticus (Lev 19:18) that, in its direct context, would have most certainly been making that point. Jesus, however, in referring to scriptures that people knew so well was often explaining God’s heart behind the Law, clarifying its application in society. For instance, in Matthew 19 Jesus challenged the Pharisees’ beliefs about acceptable grounds for divorce by explaining God’s heart for marriage.

This case is no different. He takes how they see their neighbor and flips it on its side radically. In the first century, Jewish people did not think highly of Samaritan people. As a matter of fact, they had derogatory terms for them based on their ethnic history. Jesus takes their enemy—someone they don’t respect and couldn’t imagine needing help from—and he makes that enemy the hero of this story. He is in effect widening the prospects for who our neighbor is and thus, how we ought to love them. 

Consider the person or type of person who could never be the hero of your story. (And don’t cheat! Identify the type because none of us have arrived in this regard. We are all still being sanctified! The type may not be based on race, but it may be based on political viewpoints. Dig deep here for the real treasure.) I want you to get the picture of that type of person in your head. Now, consider that that person may very well be your neighbor, the one you are called to love like yourself. Are you prepared to show them mercy?