“Neighborliness is not a quality in other people; it is simply their claim on ourselves. Every moment and every situation challenges us to action and to obedience. We have literally no time to sit down and ask ourselves whether so-and-so is our neighbor or not” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).
Who is my neighbor? That’s the question that the expert in Jewish law asked Jesus. In other words, who am I required to love?
Jesus turned the question around from “Who is my neighbor?” to “How am I being a good neighbor to those around me?”
So, a neighbor is anyone who is in need and who is within my power to help. I can’t help every single one in need, but I can meet the needs of those who are in front of me, and those by Jesus’ definition are my neighbors.
Ultimately, the Good Samaritan is a picture of Jesus Himself. I’m the one who foolishly took the dangerous road alone and ended up beaten up and robbed. I’m the one lying half-dead on the road whom the Neighbor spotted and had pity on.
That changes the parable quite a bit, doesn’t it? It means just as the Good Samaritan wasn’t the kind of hero the Jewish audience was expecting, Jesus wasn’t (and isn’t) the kind of Messiah we were expecting.
We prize physical strength and virility. We prize magazine-cover good looks. We love take-charge, grab-the-bull-by-the-horns people.
I wonder sometimes if we’d know Jesus as Messiah if He showed up today as He did almost two millennia ago. People were expecting someone to rally the people against Rome, but instead got a man who insisted that we turn the other cheek and go the extra mile.
Sure, Jesus overturned those tables in the Temple, but He also said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
I’m thankful most of all that in Jesus, I got not the kind of Savior I might have wanted, but the kind I so desperately needed. He loved ( and still loves) me just like I am but refuses to let me stay that way.
PS Credit for all of this goes to Mike Glenn, courtesy of tonight’s Kairos message. Check it out some Tuesday evening if you’re ever in the Brentwood/Greater Nashville area.