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In the 10th chapter of Luke we’re told that one of the religious leaders was doing his best to trap Jesus in a corner and get Him to say something He didn’t mean so that the Religious Leaders would have a reason to come against Jesus and throw Him in prison or have Him put to death.
(Nice crowd of people.)
Luke says that in a discussion about loving God and loving your neighbor, the religious leader asked Jesus …
WHO is my neighbor?”
Jesus very rarely answered people’s questions. I love this about Him. Typically He would respond with either (1) another question or (2) a parable or illustration that led to some kind of deeper point.
He rarely (if ever) came back with a direct response, which is actually an interesting way to have a discussion, especially a spiritual one kind of like we’re having right now.
(Try it sometime.)
Anyways, so Jesus responds to his question (WHO is my neighbor) with a story that has become known as parable of “The Good Samaritan”.
It goes like this …
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.”
Let’s talk about this Samaritan fellow. Right off the bat you’ve gotta realize is that Jews HATED the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews. Of all the people in the universe that Jesus could have introduced into the story, this was the very LAST one that the (Jewish) Lawyer would have wanted to see.
The hatred that these 2 groups had for each other went WAY back.
Like generations and generations and generations back.
It ran deep.
But, even so, in Jesus’ story, this hated Samaritan man comes to the rescue of the Jewish man that way lying dead on the side of the road.
Jesus ends His story with (you guessed it), a question:
Which of these three men (the Priest, the Levite, or the Samaritan) do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
You and I and the Lawyer know that the answer is the Samaritan, right?
He was the one who stopped to help.
He was the one who took the man in.
He was the one who cared for his enemy as if he was his own flesh and blood.
What does the Lawyer say?
The one who had mercy on him.”
The Lawyer hates Samaritans so much that he can’t even bring himself to say the word, “Samaritan.”
Do you notice this?!
Jesus referred to him in the story as “The Samaritan” and my Bible even titles the story as “The Good Samaritan”, but the Lawyer hates that particular people group so much that he refers to him as “the one who had mercy”.
… The ONE.
Here’s a real quick application for you.
WHO does God want you to love?
WHO does God want you to treat with respect?
WHO does God want you to bless?
The ONE whose name you can barely bring yourself to speak.
The ONE you refer to as your EX-wife or EX-husband.
The ONE you refer to as your STEP-father or STEP-mother.
The ONE you refer to as your OLD boss or your OLD pastor or your FRIEND who you parted ways with.
Your OLD church or your FAMILY that disowned you.
The person in your life with whom you have a hatred with that goes way back.
Maybe even generations and generations back.
The one where the hatred runs deep.
That’s the person that God wants you to love. Now, don’t get me wrong: HEAR ME OUT – that doesn’t mean that you need to call them up on the phone and take them out for dinner or be buddy buddy with them or pretend that everything is OK and be a doormat to that person for the rest of your life.
What it does mean, though, is that you recognize that person as a person who (whether you like it or not) is made in the image of God. And it requires you to work towards forgiveness.
Now, forgiveness may not come in full right away, and that’s OK. But it requires you to take a step towards forgiveness. And sometimes that means that even though you can’t pray for them and pray that God blesses them and hope for good things for them, it means that you begin by at least hoping that they don’t die today.
I can pray for my father today. He hurt me and my family very badly, yes, but I’m finally at the point where I can just about bring myself to pray for him to be blessed and for health and happiness.
That didn’t happen right away.
Forgiveness comes in layers - a little bit at a time. #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
In fact, for months and months and months and months and years, even, all I could muster up to pray was something like …
“Dear God, I don’t hate him as much as I did yesterday. I hate him a little less. Help him … not to die today. Amen.”
I couldn’t say HIS name. I couldn’t gather the energy to mutter HIS name. All I could do was refer to him in my prayers as HIM and pray that he wouldn’t die.
He was “THE ONE who hurt me and my family.”
Now, however, I’ve come a little further and can pray for his happiness and his health and stuff like that.
I prayed the “don’t let HIM die” prayer everyday.
For at least 8 months and then slowly, but surely, I began to realize that …
(1) He’s made in God’s image.
(2) I’m working towards forgiveness (slowly, but surely).
So again, who does God want you to love? The one whose name you can’t bring yourself to speak.
God wants you to love the person whose name you can't bring yourself to speak. #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
Who is THAT person for you?
(And what are you going to do about it?)
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