Read: Luke 10: 29-37
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29 ESV)
As Jesus conversed with the lawyer the inquisitive fellow sought to refine his opinion. Jesus had just offered him gentle correction and the laywer was interested in justifying his position. The issue in question was the notion of loving people, or as Jesus had just told everyone loving your neighbor as yourself.
As thinkers are often prone to do the unnamed questioner got hung up on one word. “Who is my neighbor?” He asked. Jesus response came in the form of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus told the story in language and terms the common people listening would have well understood. He painted an accurate picture of the times as he explained the way the religious leadership abandoned the felt needs of the ransacked traveller. I imagine that the listeners found the story either scandalously truthful and full of conviction, or mocking and hardened their hearts.
Jesus answer to the question of neighborhood was perfect. A neighbor is not just someone who lives nearby as we are sometimes inclined to believe. A neighbor is anyone. Someone in proximity to us. Someone in need. Someone society has rejected.
Jesus’ definition of neighbor is challenging. It calls us to abandon our small-minded love to embrace and pursue a bigger kind of love that ministers to anyone and everyone in need. His words show us that we do not have the right to minister only to those we find acceptable or similar. Loving our neighbor as ourself is so much bigger than we so often want to realize.