Who Is My Neighbour?

August 30, 2011
by Lori Ciccanti

Luke 10:25-29 – On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'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 neighbour as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" (NIV)

Recently, my husband and I travelled to Washington, D.C., U.S.A., to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Although I have seen documentaries about the horrific events which took place in Nazi Germany over sixty years ago, they cannot compare to seeing the actual artifacts and images of evil I experienced that day. Many thoughts raced through my mind as I sombrely reflected on the people, places, and objects I observed.

Then, an unusual thing happened. On the way home from Washington, we missed the exit where we planned to eat at a particular restaurant. So upon seeing a Catholic priest coming out of the church building, we stopped to ask him for directions, hoping that we could backtrack our way down the highway. Realizing that his directions were confusing, this Good Samaritan literally went the extra mile, offering to lead us to our destination, so we followed him. Though it was a small act of kindness, it nevertheless made a lasting impression. It reminded me that there is still good in a world overshadowed by evil. It also brought to mind Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, inspiring me to look more closely at the details of this important teaching.

After hearing the story of the Good Samaritan many times, I never gave much thought to the background portrayed in today's Scripture. The man who was inquiring of Jesus is described as an expert in the law. Yet he seems to be asking a contradictory question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" since an inheritance is not something to be earned. But Jesus turned the question back to the man who asked, and he correctly cited the heart of the Old Testament law. In doing so, he was challenged to consider his ability to love everyone. For that reason, the expert asks, "Who is my neighbour?"

This question prompted Jesus to tell the story of an injured Israelite who lay on the road, robbed, beaten, and barely alive. A priest and a Levite passed by, but did nothing. Then a Samaritan, an enemy of the Jews, had mercy on the man, bandaged his wounds, took him to an inn, and paid the full cost of his care. Subsequently in verse 37, Jesus told the expert in the law, "Go and do likewise."

Therefore, the expression "Good Samaritan" came to mean any person who performs an unselfish act of kindness. But if we are honest, we have all neglected to love God wholeheartedly and our neighbour as ourselves. Even so, through confession and forgiveness, it is not impossible to extend God's Spirit of love, even to our enemies. Thus, in a world full of violence, injustice, and evil, we can surely make a difference to the contrary.

Prayer: Father, forgive us when we have failed to love You with all our being. Take away pride and selfishness that hinder our relationship with You and others. Write Your law upon our hearts that we may be channels through which Your love and blessing can flow. We ask this in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who shed His precious blood so that we may inherit the free gift of life eternal as Your adopted children. Amen.

About the author:

Lori Ciccanti <dlalsina@mchsi.com>
Ocean View, Delaware, USA

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