Bible Verse: “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”” (Luke 10:27)

Scripture Reading: Luke 10:25-37

Followers of Jesus are known for their love of God and for their love of others. One day when Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus asked the lawyer what was written in the law. The lawyer quoted two passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. The first one: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” is part of the great Shema Y’Israel. Since the Shema is the centrepiece of Jewish prayers, recited both morning and evening, it was not surprising that the lawyer would immediately quote it – he had probably recited it in his prayers that very morning.

But then he quotes an apparently obscure passage: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Leviticus 19 is a potpourri of laws ranging from the profound to the mundane. On one hand you find laws that reflect the Ten Commandments (11-12). But also listed are laws such as “Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed” (19, 27-28). Between these extremes are commands about how we should relate to other people and, in the middle of this list, is verse 18: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.” So, although it looks at first that the lawyer is taking a random phrase from the middle of a long list of commands, it is fair to say that this command – “love your neighbour as yourself” – is a good summary statement of all the other commands that have to do with how they were to relate to one another. And Jesus says to him “you are correct.”

But the lawyer is not satisfied. He asks: “Who is my neighbour?” Throughout the history of Israel, this would have had an easy answer. When the Israelites arrived at the Promised Land, each of the 12 tribes was allotted specific territory in which they lived. Your neighbour was actually related to you. Your neighbour was assumed to be like you.

But the Jews living in Samaria intermarried with non-Jewish people. By the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were so hated that the Jews would go around Samaria, rather than travel through it. So, the assumed answer to the question “Who is my neighbour?” was “my neighbour is a true descendant of Abraham, not from other countries like Egypt or Syria – and my neighbor is definitely not a Samaritan.”

So, when Jesus told this story, he did something that was revolutionary. He extended the definition of neighbour to include even the Samaritans. The lawyer was confronted with the challenge that if he was to love his neighbour as himself, he had to begin to love those who were not from his people, who were not like him. And that is what followers of Jesus also do.

— David Freeman, Promise Keepers Canada

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