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Who Is My Neighbour?


Good Samaritan

Good Samaritan

The Levite lawyer who questions Jesus on how to win God’s favour and on what it means to be a neighbour to others wants a complicated and legalistic answer when it’s perfectly clear to Jesus.

The lawyer already knows the simple answer and quotes it off pat. But that can’t be all, can it? Surely there’s more? He had hoped to come out of this encounter appearing clever, but instead he made a fool of himself – even worse, he appeared unfaithful.

If choosing God is that easy, why do most people find it so hard? What’s the excuse?

Hoping for a long list of boxes to tick, with most of his boxes ticked already, the lawyer craves Jesus’ admiration: “Well done! Why can’t everyone be like you?”

Instead Jesus answers him by telling a curious parable about a traveller who is beaten and robbed and left for dead – with the point of the story terrifyingly clear: choosing God demands choosing people over excuses. Choosing God means choosing anyone who needs you – no excuses – ever!

The lawyer doesn’t pretend to misunderstand Jesus, but we never quite get the end of this story. Instead, we get to write our own ending.

Are we like the lawyer, looking for complicated ways to get ourselves off the hook? When faced with this sharp clarity – are we tempted to embroider beautiful and elaborate robes to hide the truth? Or do we just give up in despair saying it’s all too hard?

Generations of believers before us have been faced with the same vexing challenges and have shown us by example that choosing God over and over again – even when our other choices sometimes get in the way – is the best we can do. And that’s all God asks of us.

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good neighbour

good neighbour

Luke 10:25-37 [NRSV]    

The Parable of the Good Samaritan

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘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 neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ 30 Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ 37 He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You, go and do likewise.’