In my previous post, How Do I Love My Neighbor?: Part I, I described how I was misled by man-made doctrines, but was graciously led to the truth about God’s desire for his people by the Holy Spirit.
The truth is, faith in Jesus Christ makes one a child of God. This has nothing to do with the man-made requirements and labels many “church folks” place on people. It’s crazy how we’re so quick to call others out for not being “true Christians” and then proceed to support our claim based on man-made beliefs.
If you want to get super real about it, calling yourself a “Christian” means nothing as it pertains to salvation since it’s a title given by man. Additionally, scholars aren’t even sure that the word “Christian” was a positive thing in biblical times. The saying, according to some, was negative toward believers in Christ.
Now take a deep breath and brace yourself for this one. If you’re one of those self-righteous folks, your religious activity, church tradition, and yes, even the beloved title “Christian” doesn’t matter much. Why? Because none of it makes you a child of God. So, then what does matter?
According to the Lord, loving God with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves is the way to obtain eternal life. The Old Testament, or Torah, as well as the teachings of Christ and the apostles teach us how to do this.
Love is the aim of this life. Whoever doesn’t love doesn’t know God because God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).
However, before we can love our neighbor as ourselves, it might be helpful to know who he or she is. So, who is my neighbor? This post will explore that question. Let’s begin by visiting Luke.
In Luke 10:25-37, a man who was learned in the Torah rose up against Jesus to test him. The man asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to attain eternal life. In response, Jesus asked him a question.
He asked the man what was written in the law and how he understood it. The man answered and said, “‘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’” (v. 27 NIV).
He was spot on with his answer, and Jesus told him he would live in the end if he did these things. Then, the man, eager to vindicate himself and proclaim himself righteous, asked Jesus: “Who is my neighbor? ”
The Lord answered him with a parable saying:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Lk. 10: 30-35 NIV)
Afterwards, Jesus asked the man which of these three people he believed was a neighbor to the man who was jumped by robbers and left for dead. The man answered that it was he who had mercy on him, the Samaritan. He was then told to do the same, as should we.
So, who is our neighbor?.
First, let’s examine the word neighbor. “Near” or “close to” is the best translation of the Greek word normally translated as “neighbor” in the New Testament. In verse 27, the ending text can literally be read as, “and the near of yours as yourself”, with “near” being used as a substantive. Therefore, it’s a noun which refers to a group of people – those who are close to you; within your reach.
God doesn’t expect us to worry about every person in the world or to try to help them all. In addition to being impossible, it would drive us insane. It’s exhausting and ineffective to pray for everyone who exists on a regular basis.
But, I believe God places us in families, workplaces, and friendships to create a specific circle of people within our reach; whom our lives and our witness can have an effect on and, hopefully, lead them to believe in God through Jesus Christ, or to encourage them to stay strong in the faith if they are already believers.
Consider this: If every believer loved their neighbors, there wouldn’t be anyone untouched by God’s grace.
So, our neighbors are those we have some type of connection or encounter with. Do they have to possess certain characteristics or belong to a certain group or nationality? No. Must they look, sound, and act like me? Of course not, don’t be foolish.
The victim was only referred to as “a man.” Not as a white man, black man, rich man, poor man, or any other type of identifying information. Just a man – a human being. One in desperate need of help.
Jesus confirmed that it was the Samaritan who helped him, not the priest, who served God in the temple, nor the Levite, who had been specially chosen to serve the Lord, both of whom ought to have been proficient in the law; But an outsider was the one who fulfilled God’s command by being his neighbor.
He sacrificed time, money, and his ride to care for someone he probably had never met before. It’s the same kind of sacrificial love that God our Father and Jesus Christ have shown us.
Our need was known to God before you and I existed. Having been beaten down and left for dead by sin, the Lord saw us broken and polluted in our own filth. Aside from being passed up and written off by others, and unable to get satisfaction from the emptiness and heartlessness of the world, we had no hope of eternal survival.
But God showed his love for us by sending his only unique Son into the world that we might live through him. Taking on the form of man, Jesus Christ came down from heaven to save sinners.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. ” (1 John 4:10) In love for us, Jesus allowed himself to be beaten and crucified on our behalf. His earthly life was sacrificed so that we may have eternal life through faith in him.
Upon trusting in God through Christ, we become his children, and as his children we are instructed to love one another, or our neighbors, as ourselves.
So, again who is my neighbor? Nearby or within my reach, any fellow human who is in need of any kind. This includes my enemies (Matt. 5:43) whether I like it or not—-and I don’t. But I can only depend on God to change hearts and/or circumstances as he wills.
After all, the Lord does good to the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:44-45) to those who love him and those who hate him. Therefore, as his offspring, we should follow his example, humbling ourselves if and when necessary in order to fulfill his righteous requirements.
So then, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 Jn. :7). Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12).
Love your neighbor as yourself.
In an upcoming post, we’ll look at some biblical examples of loving one’s neighbor to gain a deeper understanding of what God expects of us. Until then, ciao for now.
**Unless otherwise noted, the thoughts expressed in this post are my own, and are intended to guide, not replace one’s own conviction and study of Scripture.