By Courtney Whiting, Crosswalk.com
Several months ago, as we drove through our neighborhood, my daughter pointed out that the “mean lady's” house was for sale. This woman had done nothing to my child to evoke such a title. However, in her yard were no less than seven “No Trespassing” signs. Apparently, my daughter overheard a comment I made concerning the signs and thus, the title was born. I immediately felt convicted for my behavior.
I never knew much about the woman who lived down the street except that her name was Mary, she was older, and she lived alone. I waved to her when I passed by, but I never stopped to introduce myself. This was partly because I was so consumed with my own agenda that I never opened my heart to a potential need. Another reason for this missed opportunity was I simply prejudged her as not having anything in common with myself.
Popular culture often teaches to support others of similar viewpoints, interests, or beliefs. But Jesus' command challenges the cultural norm. In Luke 10, a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered with the story of what we call, The Good Samaritan.
Here are 10 things we can learn from this Samaritan man about loving our neighbors as ourselves.
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Who is My Neighbor?
In the ancient Near East, there was a division between various groups. Animosity existed between Jews and Samaritans because of historical and religious differences. Jews knew the commands of the Old Testament to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbors as themselves (Deut. 6:9; Lev. 19:18). Yet their interpretation of loving their neighbor was limited to only those who were of similar background.
When the Jewish lawyer asked Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus used the question to challenge the attitude of the day. The parable of the Good Samaritan defines what it means to love your neighbor. In the story, a man is beaten by robbers and left half-dead on the side of the road. While he lies helpless on the treacherous thoroughfare, a priest sees the man and deliberately walks by on the other side of the road. Later, a Levite responds the same way when he sees the dying man. Finally, a Samaritan sees the victim and responds.
Whereas the two Jewish leaders saw the person in need and deliberately avoided the situation, the Samaritan personified neighborliness. He showed mercy to someone with no regard to background, religion, or potential benefits.
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How do I Love My Neighbor?
By looking into the story of the Good Samaritan, we can learn how to better love our neighbors by the character’s example in the story. Here are 10 ways we too can love our neighbors as ourselves:
1. Love is proactive.
In the parable, when the Samaritan saw the victim, he went to him. The Samaritan was on his way somewhere, but he stopped when he saw the man in need. We live in a fast-paced world where it is easy to overlook the needs of others. But if we learn from this parable, we will be careful to be aware of those who are around us. Who is God placing on your heart to show love to?
'Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1 John 3:18)
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2. Love is observant.
One of the first steps in being a good neighbor and loving others as yourself is noticing others. The Samaritan first saw the hurting man.
“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,” Luke 10:33.
Granted, a beaten man on the road seems like a scene that's hard not to notice. But Jesus also shows us the importance of seeing people. He sounds very similar to the Samaritan in Matthew 9:36, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
How can you be prayerful and mindful of people in your life?
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3. Love is compassionate.
Luke 10:33 goes on to state that when the Samaritan saw the injured man, he had compassion on him. He went towards the injured man and responded to his needs rather than simply feeling sorry for him. How can you be active in showing compassion to someone in need?
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Colossians 3:12-13)
4. Love is responsive.
When the Samaritan saw the man, he responded immediately to help meet the mans’ needs. He bound his wounds using the resources he had on hand. Have you noticed someone in need in your community lately? How can you respond to their need?
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)
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5. Love is costly.
When the Samaritan tended to the victim’s wounds, he gave of his own resources. One of the most valuable resources we have is our time. Loving his neighbor not only cost the Samaritan at least two days’ wages, but also his time. God has given us resources so that we can be a blessing to others. What other resources has God given you that you can use to bless others?
"In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35)
6. Love is inopportune.
Imagine trying to lift an injured man with no clothes onto a donkey. That was not a convenient task, and it was likely messy, given the man's injuries. The Samaritan physically had to support the man's weight by himself. Yet he set the man on his animal to take him to a place of safety. How have you benefited from someone going out of their way for you? Is there a way you can show love to a neighbor, even if it's inconvenient or not at a good time?
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7. Love is healing.
After the Samaritan binds the wounds of the man, he continues his care by taking him to an inn and looking after him. Who has experienced healing because you have taken time to love?
"And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Colossians 3:14)
8. Love is sacrificial.
The Samaritan gave two denarii to the innkeeper, which is approximately two days’ worth of earnings. Yet the only instruction he gave is to take care of the wounded man. There was no payback expected in return.
Jennifer Maggio said this about serving without expecting anything in return in her article, "10 Things The Church Can Do to Win Over Unbelievers:"
"While it is a beautiful thing when someone we have served gives us a genuine, heartfelt, thank you, it is not necessary or required. Our service to others and our commitment to do for others is about what Christ has already done for us. Nothing more."
What sacrifices can you make for someone in need?
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9. Love is communal.
The care for the injured man did not end when the Samaritan had to leave. Instead of leaving the man alone, he entrusted his care to the innkeeper. When we love a neighbor, the Samaritan shows us that it's good and sometimes necessary to involve others in the process. Who can you involve to show love to someone else?
"Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:25)
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
10. Love is promising.
When the Samaritan left the inn, he told the innkeeper that he would pay for any other expenses when he returned. The Samaritan owed nothing to the victim, yet, he promised to return and cover the cost of any extra care that the man needed. When we love others, the Samaritan shows us to follow through in our care, even if we are not obligated to them. Is there someone you need to follow up with to show how much you care?
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BONUS! 11. Love is merciful.
“'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,'" Luke 10:36-37.
"Mercy is seeing a man without food and giving him food. Mercy is seeing a person begging for love and giving him love. Mercy is seeing someone lonely and giving him company. Mercy is meeting the need, not just feeling it," MacArthur said.
The Samaritan could have kept walking after he saw the man's need, but then he felt compassion. And he could have kept walking after feeling compassion. We all often do. But he acted on his compassion and showed mercy. Mercy is compassion in action.
Mercy is the action God took when he felt compassion and love for us. In the famous verse, John 3:16, we see that God sees us and loves us. He acted on that love in mercy by sending a savior.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
What need of a neighbor moves you to compassion? What act of mercy could accompany that feeling?
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Love shows no partiality.
My neighbor Mary has since moved away, and a new family has bought her home. While I could wallow in guilt that I responded more like the priest or the Levite to her, I am challenging myself to treat my new neighbors like the Samaritan would. For love shows no partiality.
Cortney Whiting is a wife and mother of two wonderfully energetic children. She received her Masters of Theology Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. After serving in the church for nearly 15 years, Cortney currently serves as a lay leader and writes for various Christian ministries. You can find more of her work on her blog, Unveiled Graces.
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For more on how to love your neighbor, read:
10 Ways to Love Your Neighbor without Being Weird: "I used to feel guilty about Christ’s command to love my neighbor because I didn’t even know most of the people living around me. I had every excuse in the book for not loving my neighbor, but I couldn’t find an exception clause in the second-greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-39. After months of arguing with God, I finally knocked on my neighbors’ doors and invited them for coffee at my kitchen table. I didn’t want to be a freak or fanatic. I just wanted to be their friend. Here are ten simple ways you can love your neighbor without being weird."
7 Ways to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: "I’m certain that all of us identify with a group of people from a particular life circumstance or background and are filled with compassion and love for them. We find it easy to love those neighbors as we love ourselves. But we’re not always moved by compassion for people, especially the difficult people in our lives. Here are seven practical ways we can actually love our neighbors."
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