Love Thy Neighbor

"But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?" (Luke 10:29)

This question was asked Jesus by a "lawyer" (one who specialized in the interpretation and application of the more than 600 commandments of the Old Testament) in response to Jesus' affirmation that the greatest commandments of the law were, first, to love God, and second, to love "thy neighbour as thyself" (Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:39).

The Lord Jesus answered his question by telling the famous story of the good Samaritan, concluding by saying: "Go, and do thou likewise" (Luke 10:37). From this parable are derived several important principles concerning neighbors and what it means to love them.

In the first place, a neighbor is not necessarily someone whose home is near ours, or even one who is an acquaintance. The Samaritan had never met the traveler who had been robbed and wounded, nor was he even a fellow countryman.

However, there were three criteria which, in the mind of Christ, did make him a neighbor: (1) he was someone whose path had crossed that of the Samaritan; (2) he had a real need; and (3) the Samaritan had the ability to meet that need. Since all three criteria were satisfied, then there was such an obligation, and the Lord has told us to do likewise.

It is such an action that is involved in "loving" one's neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. It is doing what we would want to have done for us, if the roles were reversed. However, there is still something more to it than that: The "love" of which the Lord spoke here is the well-known agape love, which describes an unselfish love--one which serves the best interests of the recipient without regard to any benefit for the one who loves. In the highest sense, therefore, a genuine love for one's neighbor would mean seeking the will of God in and for the one who is loved. HMM

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