How many of us remember this from our childhood? "It's a beautiful day in this _____________,..."
Those were the days when I might say, "Excuse me. Can I go outside now?" And English teachers (and experts in grammar) would reply: "Not can I go outside. May I go outside." Didn't you then just want to use a double negative in their presence.
A Persnickety Theologian
"An expert in the Law" asked Jesus a question. Now this could have been someone who loved to talk theology. But I have a feeling he was the persnickety kind of theologian.
"We were really lucky!" "No, we were really blessed!"
Or "For God so loved the world that God gave God's one and only... son."
He wanted it precise!
Answering the Question
The question itself: "Who is my neighbor?" Where are the boundaries of where I show concern? I can't love everybody, can I? That would be exhausting!
We insulate ourselves (and sometimes it is necessary!) by grouping those we can and can not afford to think or care about.
But "they are not like us" removes sympathy. The most dangerous time for a group or category of persons is when they are designated "not really persons" like "us."
: Many Amerindian tribes called themselves "People."
1st man cared about no one other than himself, his time, his wealth, and his ceremonial sanctity.
2nd man might have helped if he recognized him (sacrificing time, wealth, and sanctity).
3rd man helped knowing this was a person from outside his "neighborhood."
Every human being is our neighbor. Every one, as all are made in the image of God.
Sometimes love is extravagant, sometimes love must be tough, but love is to be shown to all.
Answering the Motivation
The question behind the question: "Doesn't 'loving my neighbor' conflict with 'loving God' sometimes?"
The first Love is all about loving the real, the true, and the living God, but we as broken people often try to define ourselves by what (and who) we are against. So how can you be my neighbor if you're on another team?
: Jesus in hot water for healing on the Sabbath.
Expert wanted to prove to himself he was spiritually doing well. So Jesus told him a parable about doing good, instead.
In the parable the Priest and the Levite, who are both expected to be the holiest among the Jews, take the least holy actions by trying to preserve their holiness (cleanness).
It is the person from "a different team" who has an imperfect understanding of God who takes actions pleasing to God.
The priest and Levite (and Expert) are being spiritually selfish, as they are most concerned about preserving their own sanctity
Jesus directs the expert to an outward focus
What it Means for Us
Are we exhausted by the brokenness we see around us?
It's thrown in our face every time we read a paper or watch the news, so much that we might despair of making a dent in it.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9 NIV
In the parable, the Samaritan "happened" by. He was there. The need was before him. He was local. And he made a difference in the traveler's life.
Are we inwardly focused? Fear based?
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." 9:10a
"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." 1 John 4:18 NRSV
Must we regularly and honestly examine our relationship with God to see if it is healthy? Must we live in a fear that stunts our love of others and paralyzes us with the danger of doing the wrong thing? No
Must we always remember that God is Love, and listen for His prompting for where we can pour His love out on others?