Following God changes our lives. It not only affects our ‘life after death,’ it changes how we live every day. One of my favorite Parables of Jesus is the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:

“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”   “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  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.’”  “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”  

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”  The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Priests and Levites were very concerned with keeping the Law (Torah). Touching a dead body, or even someone who was injured, would make them ‘unclean;’ but because of their fear of becoming unclean, they were unable to help a man in need who was dying on the side of a dangerous road. Ironically, the Samaritan, who was hated by Jews and considered ‘unclean,’ one who would not have been helped had the roles been reversed, was the one who fulfilled the Law by showing love and mercy to his neighbor.

The expert of the law, upon hearing Jesus tell this story to answer his question “Who is my neighbor,” was probably upset. When Jesus asked him who loved his neighbor in the story, he couldn’t even say ‘The Samaritan.’ He used a vague description to label him. He was being forced to recognize that his neighbor didn’t have to be his friend, another Jew, or a person of high standing. His neighbor could be enemy or someone who did nothing to deserve his kindness.  He didn’t like hearing that someone he hated was someone he should love and treat with dignity.

Jesus taught that every human is deserving of love and mercy. Jesus even gave the most vivid demonstration of this: he gave his life to rescue every single human being- no matter who they are, where they’re from, or what they’ve done. As we follow Christ every day and live like Him, let’s consider the question “Who is my neighbor?” and how can I show them the love and mercy of God?