Hey – welcome to the third part in our discovery of what Jesus meant when He commanded us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
So far we discovered that Jesus was quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures (Leviticus 19:18):
“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Last week, we discovered that the Hebrew word for love (Ve’ahvta) used in Leviticus 19:18 means:
1. The love mentioned here in Leviticus is more than just emotions or an inward mental state, but something that expresses itself in action.
2. Love refers to loyalty, as in the loyalty of subjects to their kings or slaves to their masters.
3. The command “to love” is requiring us to act and live in a certain way, a way that sets God’s people apart from all others – a holy love.
Now, let’s look at our question “who is our neighbor?”
The Hebrew word used in our Leviticus verse is l’reahkha, which typically means “companion”, “friend”, or “kinsman”. In the time of Jesus, there was much discussion about how far the commandment went – is it just our close friends, or did it extend to our Jewish brothers? Or beyond?
Good news – Jesus gave us an answer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). In this parable about a Jewish man who was beaten by robbers was left on the side of the road. Two Jewish religious men walk by individually – each did nothing to aid his brother. But a Samaritan traveling on the road, stopped and healed his wounds and took him to an inn and generously paid his way.
So who did Jesus say was our neighbor? The Samaritan. Then Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”.
The Samaritan saw someone in need, someone who was hurting, and he did the neighborly loving thing – help him. So Jesus was saying that we should help those who are hurting, even if they are not like us.
What is the big deal of all of this? Well, it is quite revolutionary. Jews didn’t like Samaritans, and Samartins didn’t care of Jews all that much. Jews used to call Samaritans dogs. Crazy.
So Jesus is saying that our neighbor extends to those that our different than us; to those in a different country; to our enemies.
This must have blown the minds of those that heard Jesus say this.
So what does this mean to us? Let’s take what we have learned so far and put it all together.
Jesus commands us to love with a loyal, holy love that is expressed in actions to:
- those that are like us and those that are different from us.
- those who are close to us and those who are far away from us.
- those who we are fond of, and those that we despise.
- those who are ignored, hurting, and marginalized.
There is a lot here that needs to be unpacked. And there is so much at stake.
How I extend the love of Jesus to others, reflects what I believe about Jesus.
Share in the comments what you think of these ideas. Who is your neighbor?
Next up, what did Jesus mean by “love your neighbor as yourself“?