The good Samaritan’s guide to loving your neighbor
The parable of the good Samaritan is about loving your neighbor. But who is your neighbor?
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The good Samaritan: Love your neighbor
Jesus tells us that to love your neighbor is of extreme importance; in fact, it is second only in importance to loving God. (Matthew 22:37-39.)
“‘And who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn … So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’” Luke 10:29-37.
Who is my neighbor?
The story of the good Samaritan shows us that a true neighbor has nothing to do with closeness. My neighbor is anyone who crosses my path in life. As a, everyone I meet should taste the love of Christ in me, so that He can be glorified through me. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.
A priest and a Levite both passed by and chose not to help. These were men who would probably have said that they kept all the commandments, including loving your neighbor. But when it came to the moment of their fellow man being in need, when no one could see them doing a good deed, then their love failed. True love isn’t performing good deeds in order to keep a good conscience. The Samaritan was the true neighbor because he showed mercy and compassion, even though he had nothing to gain from it.
As a Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews, he could have felt that he didn’t have any obligation at all to stop and help. In fact, you could almost say he could not have been blamed at all if he kept on walking, as did the Levite and the priest. But he did stop, and he did exceed expectations to help. That was true selflessness and love.
And so “a good Samaritan” has become a phrase for someone who goes above and beyond to help someone in their time of need. But the time of need isn’t always a dramatic incident. Someone’s time of need may be when they need to experience patience, compassion, or gentleness rather than irritation, rudeness, or harsh words.
When Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them. (Matthew 9:36.) Am I compassionate towards my fellow-man? Or do I let their quirks, their habits, their weaknesses, and even their sin, become a point of contention for me? Do I harden my heart to others, and in my pride and high-mindedness think that I’m better than them? Do I write them off, or have demands on them that they should be a certain way in order for me to love them? Or do I esteem them better than myself, and become a servant to all? (Philippians 2:3; Mark 9:35.)
Love your neighbor as yourself
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is the commandment. This can be my intention, but then I find that, like Paul writes in Romans, that when I go to do the good, I find the evil present. I find things like self-seeking, envy, pride, impatience, bitterness. But that doesn’t mean that I have to give in to those things! That means I have found the perfect opportunity to deny those lusts and resist temptation, so that the fruit of the Spirit can increase in my life. When I walk in the Spirit and do not fulfill those lusts that come up from the flesh, then I will grow in the virtues, by which I can love my neighbor. Sincere love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” How often have I fallen, made mistakes, said or done something I regret? When I am struggling, when I need compassion, mercy, and goodness, don’t I hope that others will bear and help and support me? Hasn’t Jesus borne with me in my weaknesses? Hasn’t He given me chance after chance after chance? “Love one another as I have loved you!” I need to be obedient to Jesus’ commandment: “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do likewise!” Luke 6:31.
This is the kind of love that Paul wrote to the Corinthians about. Love that suffers long and is kind. Love that does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up, does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil. Love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.) This kind of love does not come naturally. My own ego has to be crushed to be able to have this love that never fails. And I cannot do this in my own strength. I need help, grace and power from above. And with that power I can have a love that is invincible.
That doesn’t mean that the other person is always in the right. But nothing anyone does should bring me out of love. Then I can help, encourage, exhort, and provoke them to the good in love.
The good Samaritan was “he who showed mercy.” I can be in this good Samaritan spirit in all of my interactions and relationships. That’s true Christianity.
You may be interested in reading more on our topic page about Jesus’ parables, or in the articles below:
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.