And, Who is my Neighbor…?
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is responding to a somewhat defiant question about “who is our neighbor?” The “expert of law” questions Jesus out of his own inadequacies. He does not love his neighbor as himself and wishes to justify himself in asking, just who IS this neighbor he is supposed to love.
We are inherently aware of who are neighbors are. We are also selfish, distrustful and prideful! We must have trust and vulnerability to love our neighbor. We must also be willing to receive love OR be rejected. We must be willing to let go of self and take on the needs of the other. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, he is moved with compassion for the victim. He forgets himself and does what is necessary for the victim. He treats the victim as he would like to be treated. Any judgments or fears are forgotten and he literally pours love and mercy (‘poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them’) on the victim.
This begs another question in my mind. Does the “law expert” love himself? How can we know how to treat others with love and compassion if we don’t have that same love and compassion for ourselves? If we are prideful it is because we don’t trust in the love and mercy we are afforded by being a child of God. Pride is an act of placing our own will above God’s will AND our own fears, judgments, and desires over the good of the other. Why would we do that? It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. We don’t accept God’s dominion over us, we wish to put our selfish wants and insecurities over the Kingship of the Creator. It is our fallen nature.
There is hope, obviously, as we have witnessed great compassion and sacrifice for our fellow man by heroes and laymen alike. There are countless stories of great deeds of service and sacrifice by those from whom we would expect; police, firemen, soldier and saints, but also among the ranks of the average Joe; a man jumps in front of traffic to help a vulnerable elderly person or small child or sacrifices his own life to save a drowning victim. And, sometimes from a source that you would least expect, a person of mal-intent will act in the interest of their victim or bystander; an armed assailant shoots their victim and then drops them off at the ER. How does this conversion occur? It is God’s light penetrating the darkness in our hearts. He is always there we must just look and see. Our hardened hearts must soften. We must be vulnerable and trust in the love and compassion of the Lord. We yearn for it. It is our inheritance.
A simplified explanation to be sure, but aside from the chaos, bad decisions and heartache we endure for the sake of pride, the answer is indeed simple, ‘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 neighbor as yourself.’ Love God, Love yourself and Love your neighbor. It’s a package deal as none of those options can stand alone.