Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And 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 neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
One day, an expert in religious law approached to Jesus to test Him, and asked “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” The expert in the law, who had a walking knowledge about Bible, confidently (and rather proudly) answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
It was a really Biblical answer. He was able to together two greatest commandments in the Old Testament: “Love your God” (Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12, 30:6) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” in Leviticus Chapter 19. Specifically, Leviticus 19:9-18 talks about God’s people’s personal conduct, and at the end, God commanded to love your neighbor as yourself in the last verse 18. Leviticus 19:9-18 is as follows, which is the law of God for neighbors:
“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.
“Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another. “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the LORD.
“Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay. “Do not insult the deaf or cause the blind to stumble. You must fear your God; I am the LORD.
“Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly. “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.
“Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is threatened. I am the LORD.
“Do not nurse hatred in your heart for any of your relatives. Confront people directly so you will not be held guilty for their sin. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:9-18)
As soon as Jesus heard the expert of the law, Jesus spoke out “Right! You answered correctly.” Jesus completely agreed with his answer. Then Jesus continued, “Do this and you will live!” Why did Jesus say this?
At the time, breaking the God’s commandment was strictly forbidden, and severely penalized including stoning to death. Thus, Jesus said “do this and you will live.” If not, legalistically he should have been killed as a God’s lawbreaker.
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)
Based on the above response, the expert of the law should have kept the law described in Leviticus quoted above. He thought that he did everything that he need to be justified. However, Jesus did not stop there.
Jesus open up his mouth and told a parable to the expert in the law: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ (Luke 10:30-35)
At that time, Samaritans were despised by Jews. Thus, Samaritans naturally did not like Jews. However, Jesus told about a Samaritan who was different. As walking along the road, the Samarian saw a Jewish person half dead beside the road, he felt a compassion rather than a haterism. He stopped to help the Jewish person robbed and injured. He delayed his journey, and approached to the Jewish person. With a compassion and love, the Samaritan soothed the Jewish’s wounds with olive oil and wind, and bandaged them. He carried the wounded Jewish person on his own donkey to an inn. Then he paid his own money to the inn keeper, and asked to take care of the wounded Jewish person. Additionally, he even promised when he returned to the inn, he would pay any additional costs incurred. What a lovely story it was!
Then Jesus asked, “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Jesus was patient with the expert of the law. Jesus wanted for the expert of the law to get out of the legalism and to see the love of God. Thus, Jesus asked who was the neighbor to the Jewish person attacked by bandits. Surely Jesus already knew the answer that the expert of the law would give: “The one who showed him mercy.” Upon hearing his answer, Jesus replied “Yes, now go and do the same.” Jesus want for mercy and compassion for him to go beyond just legalistically keeping the law as described in Leviticus. Jesus wanted for him to show God’s love to his neighbors from the deepest part of his heart.
Oh, God. We are sinners who fall short of the glory of God. Without your mercy, we should have been eternally condemned. Through the blood of Jesus Christ on cross, we are completely forgiven regardless how sinful we are. In fact, most of us are even worse than the expert of the law, who faithfully kept the law in Leviticus. Even so, God loves us with His one-sided love. Through the love, God has brought us into His Eternal Family. He does not ask anything from us. He wants to give back what we received – His unconditional love by loving God and our neighbors. Yes, we must love our neighbors. However, truly loving our neighbor is not easy, and sometimes, it is almost impossible, when our neighbors behave badly against us or gives harms to us as if they were our true enemies. Even so, God wants for us to love our neighbors, which is the greatest commandment after loving God.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:43-45a)