Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Love God. Love and serve your neighbor. It seems this should be fairly straightforward. There’s no fuss, no muss. Jesus affirms the statement of the lawyer in Luke 10:25-28. Love God. Love and serve your neighbor.
Everything is going well until the lawyer desires to justify himself (v. 29). That’s when he runs aground. “I’m find with the idea of loving God with my whole being. But aren’t there some neighbors I can avoid loving? What’s the limit of neighborness?” Jesus, of course, points the lawyer to a person from a group toward which Jews harbored deep hostility. People sometimes speak about this in terms of racial tensions in the United States. It’s a lot worse than that. The Samaritans and Israelites had built up centuries of mistrust and were always ready to get a war started. This is a big huge identity issue.
The lawyer would not be sympathetic toward a Samaritan. Then, notice what the man in the parable does. He picks up the Samaritan, who might just die and make him ceremonially unclean and a suspect of murder. He takes the guy to an inn. He pays for lodging and care for a while.
Try explaining that to your wife. You are away on business. The trip maybe takes a few days. And she sees that you have a really big hotel bill and your other expenses are considerably higher than normal. Really? You picked up a person who had been assaulted and helped him get some rest? The next question would naturally be, “Who was she?”
This is what happens, though, when we try to justify ourselves. We want an out clause, and Jesus refuses to give us one. We are to love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourself. Period. We are asking the wrong question when we ask who our neighbor might be. The right question is what we do when we fail to love God with all our heart. The right question is how we get help when we don’t really love our neighbor.
What’s the answer to those right questions? Jesus is the right answer. He is the one who brings us forgiveness, life, and salvation, as we confess before him that we have sinned. He’s the one who puts our lives back together. He’s the one who reconciles us to God. He’s the one who justifies. We don’t need to do it ourselves. That’s good, since we can’t and won’t. Let God be God.
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