What does it look like to actively follow Jesus Christ? How do we “get the Christian life right”? Though Christians are saved only by the blood of Christ, Jesus had a strong opinion on how His followers could best display this new movement’s perspective on living a godly life. And the funny thing is that His opinion was not at all something new. In fact, when a lawyer sought to test Him, Jesus asked the lawyer how the Old Testament Law informs them to live. This lawyer, who knew the Law well, quoted the Old Testament when he said “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). This teaching was taken directly from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus agreed with the statement.
In other words, Jesus’ understanding of the greatest commandments was well-founded and understood by those He was speaking to. Despite this fact, there was pushback because the Jews of His day believed that Jesus took this completely out of context and didn’t understand the God they followed. The lawyer asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” in verse 29, hoping to catch Jesus in some double-talk.
Jesus didn’t answer with some simple reply. He did not bicker, and He did not embarrass the lawyer. What He did was provide a beautiful story that can inform much of the cultural disputes we may find ourselves in today. He told of the Good Samaritan.
Before anyone checks out because they have heard this story so many times, one should understand the hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. That is incredibly important context that must be understood to grasp the weight behind Jesus’ words.
The Samaritans date back to the two sons of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh. They made up the northern kingdom of Israel when the two kingdoms were divided. After their Assyrian captivity, there was intermarriage with Gentile nations which made them “unclean” in the eyes of the Jews. This coupled with the Samaritans’ opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the captivity to Babylon and their worship of idols created a very difficult relationship to mend and hard-heartedness toward each other overtook both camps.
They did not have a relationship with one another. They had different perspectives on God and different ways of viewing Him. And because the Samaritans descended from Joseph, there was competition from both as to who represented God correctly (another similarity to how different Christians view each other today). There are even records, according to some scholars, which show abhorrent attempts at making each other ceremonially unclean by weaponizing the bodies of the dead, but I won’t spend further time explaining that.
No matter how you look at it, these two people groups who both claimed to follow God hated one another deeply. Then, Jesus tells this story of a Jew being beaten and left for dead. Two of his religious leaders walked right past him, pretending not to notice the pain that their brother was in. But, in the words of the Son of God – Jesus Christ – a Samaritan who was the enemy of their people stopped, felt compassion, bandaged up his wounds, poured expensive oil and wine on them, took him to an inn, and paid for his time there in recovery.
Jesus tells the people to go and do the same as this Samaritan. This unclean, misguided, and theologically mistaken man actually fulfilled the two greatest commandments better than the religious teachers of Jesus’ own people. Luke 10:25-37 displays Jesus’ commands to love those who we despise. He gave dignity to those who we can’t stand. He used an enemy of the people to illustrate correct living. This is monumental, and yet we read over it so quickly.
This passage states that we will find opposition in this world. Just as the Jews had the Samaritans, so we will have people who frustrate us, attack us, misrepresent us, and even seek to put an end to us. However, Jesus’ answer was not to fight back, harbor hatred, or conquer opposing views. His tact was to bring dignity and show love to the Samaritans. Rather than bring shame, He offered the Samaritan woman a drink of living water (John 4:4-30). He did not see her as an individual representing a people-group to be destroyed. He saw her as one created in the image of God and a recipient of hope in the form of His greatest attribute – love (1 Corinthians 13). He saw this woman, not as an enemy, but as His ministry. He sought to end her immorality, not with disgust, but with a relationship.
May we learn from His example and offer the same hope and love to the nations – to both those who we align ourselves with and even to those we don’t like. May we refuse to fall to the temptation that James 3:9-10 speaks of where Christians worship God with their tongues and then turn around and curse those created in God’s likeness. James says our mouths bring both blessing and cursing – “these things should not be this way”. Praise God for a love that did not curse us in our sin, but died for us. Praise God for every opportunity to display the same grace that we once received.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff