About That Loving Your Neighbor Command


The Bible is really clear about how Christians—followers of Jesus Christ—are to treat our neighbors. Jesus broadened the command further by identifying our neighbor as the person we come across who is in need.

So love them. Give them what they need to reach a point in which they are no longer in need. Like the Good Samaritan did. He gave medical attention to the guy he came across who had been mugged. Further, he put the wounded guy on his own donkey, took him to a nearby inn and paid the man in charge to provide for the next layer of needs. I take that to be shelter and food and perhaps clothes. For how long? The Samaritan didn’t know, so he gave an open-ended promise. Whatever the innkeeper spent on the wounded man, above and beyond the money he’d already been paid, the Samaritan would cover the cost.

It’s a great story of selflessness and generosity and letting go of ethnic stereotypes. Of refusing to give in to prejudice.

But here’s what I’m thinking about. What if the Samaritan took him home instead of to an inn. What if the Jewish victim proved to be . . . difficult. What if he was unappreciative and demanding? What if he wanted to argue politics or religion? What if he was not someone the Samaritan liked?

More often than not, I think that’s our challenge today. We are fine if we can throw some money at a problem, as if our generosity equates with love. We forget that the Samaritan was committed to coming back, that he would be checking in on the wounded Jew, that his responsibility was more than a one-time donation.

We forget that he first took a risk. After all, he could have been walking into a trap. He set aside his own needs, even his religious ones—his interaction with the wounded man made him spiritually unclean, because it’s hard to imagine that he tended the man’s wounds without getting his hands a bit bloody and that maybe he’d be touching a dead body. Then there was the change in his plans. The delay, the inconvenience of walking while the Jewish man rode. The commitment to put him up and check in on him and to pay more if needed.

All this makes me aware that loving our neighbor requires some level of commitment, of interaction, of relationship.

Which brings me back to the question: what if our neighbor is someone we don’t like?

I don’t think our likes or dislikes change God’s command. We don’t get to say to God, Well, I’d love him if I liked him a little better, because You do know, He’s a Jew. Set aside for a moment that Jesus was also a Jew. The point is, He told that story particularly because love crossed the ethnic divide.

What if the Jewish man was cursing and complaining the whole way to the inn? What if he was demanding and simply had an irritating personality? Jesus doesn’t give us an out because someone is not easy to love. He simply says, love your neighbors.

So here’s what I think. Paul tells us that when we are weak, we are strong. Because when we are weak we turn to God and let Him give us the strength we need. My guess is, if a neighbor is hard to like, God will give us the strength to love them anyway, and maybe even to like them.

I’ve had that experience, more than once. When I was teaching, there were a few times that I had a student I didn’t really like. They were . . . annoying. But as soon as I realized I was having a hard time, I started praying. And in each instance, the student and I actually developed a close relationship by the time they moved on to another grade. In other words, God took my willingness to follow Him and my admission that I was weak and needed His strength, and He forged a better relationship than I could have ever imagined.

In truth, I would have been poorer if I had missed out, if I had let my likes and dislikes dictate who I loved or didn’t love.

God really knows what He’s talking about when He tells us to love our neighbors!

Published in: on March 4, 2019 at 5:48 pm  Comments (2)  
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Love’s Check List


Love God, Jesus said, but right on the heels of obeying that greatest command, love your neighbor as yourself. In another conversation, one of those questioning Jesus rightly answered that to fulfill the law a person needed to love his neighbor, but then he asked Jesus, who is my neighbor?

To answer, Jesus told a story, the one we know today as The Good Samaritan. In it, the one who acted like a neighbor was the person who responded to someone in need, regardless of religious or political standing.

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.

And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”

And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)

A couple observations. The Samaritan didn’t think of himself first. He could have been walking into a trap, but he didn’t worry about his own safety. He also didn’t worry whether or not the injured man would make him religiously unclean. That seems to be the reason the priest in the story and the Levite chose to avoid the mugging victim rather than helping him. Thirdly, the Samaritan, acting like a neighbor, didn’t worry about how much helping the wounded person would cost him, in time or in money.

In taking on the role of neighbor, the Samaritan also didn’t think about the victim beyond his needs. He didn’t check on his politics. He didn’t check on his theology. He didn’t help the injured person in hopes of pay back. He wasn’t worried whether or not the mugging victim was a responsible person or a drunkard. In other words, he helped him with no strings attached.

The check list? The Samaritan didn’t have one. He cared for the man in need unconditionally. It’s a good picture of love, I think. Which is why Jesus told the story in the first place, isn’t it. 😉

Published in: on November 9, 2012 at 6:34 pm  Comments Off on Love’s Check List  
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A Christian Worldview Revisited


Last Friday’s post, The Need for Christian Worldview SF/Fantasy, generated some great discussion.

I especially liked J’s comment:

So, a Christian worldview in writing is essential to understanding our universe.

I think that’s true. But what do we mean by this worldview term? Some people may be yawning right about now, thinking that we’ve been around this block more than once. Undoubtedly so. I defined the term, as I understand it, when I first started this blog. And just this past year, J. Mark Bertrand and I discussed the subject in conjunction with his book Rethinking Worldview.

But maybe this is one of those subjects that can never be discussed enough. I mean, we’re talking about the basic framework upon which all the rest of our beliefs hang. On top of that, the culture in which we live is racing further and further from a Christian worldview, so it seems to me that this discussion should be ongoing.

I ran across an event recorded in the Gospel of Luke that made me realize Jesus’s followers when He walked on earth faced some of the same issues Christians today face. I’m thinking here of our need to separate the trappings of cultural Christianity from an actual Christian worldview.

Too often people, both Christians and non-Christians, have this external do’s-and-don’t list associated with Christianity. Case in point: when I mentioned in the newspaper office that I would be attending a Christian writers’ conference, one editor immediately responded to the effect that they better start watching their language. Clearly, to him Christian meant something about being offended at bad language.

But back to the Biblical example. Jesus sent out seventy of his followers to preach, heal, cast out demons. Told them to go all over. Told them to take no money, food, change of clothes, nothing. Told them to stay with the first home they came across in a city. AND told them to eat whatever was set before them.

Why this last? It dawned on me, some of those seventy might have been offended if they knew they were eating food that didn’t adhere to Jewish dietary laws. So Jesus told them, essentially, don’t ask. Don’t research the matter. Take what they give you and don’t worry about whether or not the food passes “kosher” requirements.

On the other hand, Jesus also told the seventy to shake the dust from their feet on their way out of any city that didn’t accept them.

The point is, What divided the seventy from those showered with dust was not to be a matter of food.

Soon after recounting this event, Luke chronicles a parable Jesus told, one we commonly refer to as the Good Samaritan. Most noticeable to me as I read it was that the priest and the Levite who did not help the mugging victim were most likely concerned with their own safety and/or their own ceremonial purity. They well might have been doing what Jesus told the seventy NOT to do—ducking out of relationship for fear of breaking a Jewish law.

It strikes me, then, that we Christians of the twenty-first century must not accept a definition that marginalizes what we believe. A Christian is NOT defined as a person who reads the Bible every day, doesn’t drink, cuss, snort, and who shows up at church at least once a week. Mind you, that actually does describe me, so I am not advocating their opposites.

But the key is, those externals don’t define me as a Christian. My relationship with God does—a relationship I enjoy solely because Jesus Christ willingly took my just due, swapping in His righteousness instead.

That’s who any Christian is, and it colors how we see Truth.

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