Loving Our (Unexpected) Neighbor

Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the LORD requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Jesus told many incredible stories. His stories, packed with insights, have withstood the test of time. They are referenced inside and outside the walls of the Church. One of these stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. 

Today, this phrase “a Good Samaritan” is viewed as a compliment. Surprisingly to some, this was not the case when Jesus originally shared the story in the first century. If anything, it was considered offensive and backwards. In so doing, Jesus was gently demonstrating how easily we can justify not loving our neighbors.

As you read this story in Luke 10:25-37, you’re invited to read it vividly and with imagination as if you’re part of the audience, eavesdropping in real time. Here are a few details that may aid you in this experience:

  • The Jews felt politically, religiously, and ethnically betrayed by Samaritans. Samaritans were originally Jews who intermingled with pagan nations, leading them to spiritual compromise. 
  • The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was a 17-mile journey known for its danger. The roads were dangerous and violent thieves took advantage of the terrain. 
  • Priests and Levites were viewed as religious leaders whose religious duties required ceremonial purity (such as no contact with the dead). 

Jesus’ desire in telling this parable was to rightsize a true understanding of what it means to “love your neighbor.” The expert in the law asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus, through the telling of this story, was flipping the question on its head. In a society that said, “My enemies are not my neighbors. I am not responsible for them,” the story said, “They too are your neighbors. God thinks about them too when He said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 

Can you imagine the kinds of objections the live audience would’ve had at the time? “But that man was irresponsible for traveling alone.” “The priests and Levites need to fulfill their spiritual duties for the sake of the nation.” “But he’s a Samaritan!”

This story is so helpful (and painful) because it causes us to confront our deepest beliefs about who we want to love and who we don’t believe deserves our love. 

How might God be inviting you to love your “neighbor”?


This article is an excerpt from The Image of God, a Bible study from Ines Franklin and Steve Bang Lee. Download a free sample of The Image of God.

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