Loving Your Neighbor


   “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered him saying: “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 looked upon 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 and, and took care of him. The next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend when I come next time, I will repay you.’ So, which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10: 29 – 37.)


    Samaria consisted of a population of pagan individuals dwelling within the borders of the nation of Israel (just north of Jerusalem); as non-Hebrews, they frequently engaged in immoral and idolatrous behaviors; for this reason, they were despised by the religious Israelites. In fact, many orthodox Jews, when traveling, would contemptuously journey around Samaria. After confirming the importance of loving one’s neighbor, Jesus was asked to define what constituted a neighbor. His reply came in the form of a story; in the narrative a man was beaten and left for dead on the side of the road; two religious Jews passed by, yet neither stopped to help (one was a priest and the other a supposed man of God.) Soon however, a Samaritan happened by, and his heart was filled with compassion. Seeking to preserve the man’s life, he gave of his time, his money, and his resources. He showed genuine mercy and astonishing generosity. Many today, like the priest and the Levite, are so concerned with what lies ahead that they fail to stop and assist those who are hurting and in need of assistance.
    Some time ago, during a cross-country meet in Minnesota, a young man named Mark Paulauskas was injured in the first half-mile of a two-mile race. He had been spiked by another runners’ cleats (a wound that would eventually require 20 stitches and a walking boot.) As Paulauskas cried out in agony, most of the other runners passed him by; they were more focused on the finish line than on the pain of a suffering opponent. Yet one individual heard his cries and was filled with compassion. A runner named Josh Ripley willingly abandoned his pursuit of victory so he could stop and help. Without hesitation he picked Mark up and carried him a half-mile back to the starting line. After committing his wounded competitor into the arms of the coaches, Josh Ripley sprinted off into the wilderness again; to complete his race. Although he didn’t win, he obtained a great victory in the eyes of God.
    Our fleshly nature commonly causes us to become so focused on what lies ahead that we ignore those who are right beside us. If we are not careful we can pass right by those who are hurting and ignore the call of God to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves.’ The world can be cold and apathetic; yet in the midst of indifference, there are those who are willing to display great compassion and mercy; they give selflessly; they love unconditionally; they listen to the Spirit of God; they are followers of Jesus Christ; they are Christians.
    “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always show sympathy toward those who are hurting and in need. May we be relieved of indifference and filled with mercy. May nothing ever be more important than genuine compassion, nor greater than Your divine love. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit, that we might be examples of Your affection in a world that has grown cold and apathetic. We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.” God bless all of you!

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