25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 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 neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
The expert wanted to justify himself. He wanted a pat on the back to hear, yes, you inherit eternal life. You love God, even if you only love certain people you call neighbors, while excluding others from the definition. With this question of who is my neighbor, Jesus begins the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus talks about a man who was attacked by robbers. We don’t know who he is. We don’t know his nationality, his status or profession. Whoever he was, the priest and the Levite declined to acknowledge his presence or care for him. But the Samaritan took pity on him, bandaging his wounds and placing him in the care of another, even paying the caretaker for his trouble.
Did it stick in the craw of the expert to have to acknowledge that the Samaritan was the good neighbor? Did this parable enable him to widen his definition of neighbor? Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.” I guess that’s our job too.
It is painful to admit, Lord, that I do not consider every person my neighbor. Forgive me for those I exclude, for whatever reason. Open my eyes. Help me see each person as you do, even those I don’t particularly care for. Don’t let me close myself off from someone you have called a neighbor. Amen.